There is an ongoing dispute between the LSC and practitioners about experts fees in public law family cases. Amongst other things, the LSC is reducing fees on assessment and blaming practitioners for failing to obtain prior authority.
This puts practitioners in a difficult position, to put it mildly, as the expert will usually have been paid long before the case is closed. The practitioner may well have to bear the loss.
However, we have found evidence that explains why practitioners have not been protecting themselves to a great extent by obtaining prior authority – the LSC asked them not to!
See Focus 48:
‘ Solicitors are urged not to seek prior authority in cases subject to the Protocol for Judicial Case Management in public law Children Act cases unless the expense involved is exceptional in amount or nature (for example it relates to a residential assessment or is in excess of £5,000 per funded client). This is because the process is discretionary and generally no prior authority is justified to incur costs in relation to obtaining a report or to a court attendance by an expert whose instruction and work has been authorised specifically by the court. Applications for prior authority may serve only to delay the instruction of the expert and the court timetable for the proceedings. However, an amendment to the costs limitation may still be necessary.Where prior authority or an amendment to the costs limitation is sought, details of the work to be undertaken, the rates applied and the total cost apportioned to the funded client must be provided (including, in any case where it is relevant, confirmation that any charges for or expenses in relation to treatment, therapy, training or other interventions of an educative or rehabilitative nature have been identified, costed and excluded).’