Fee cuts continue to dominate; the LSC have published FAQs on the criminal and civil legal aid reform pages of their website. Where you are instructing an expert in a post-cut case and are seeking to exceed the prescribed maximum fee you will need to apply for prior authority. The LSC is developing a new form – APP8A – specifically for these cases but until it is released continue to use APP8s. See this post for the contract rules on when you can exceed the rates. They have also published a guide to common mistakes in criminal claims.
Payment delays for both civil and criminal cases are improving, if at the expense of customer service in other parts of the LSC. Only criminal advocacy claims are now outside the service standard, though criminal litigator fees and civil bills are not far behind. You can see the latest information for civil and criminal bills on the LSC site.
The LSC are writing to civil firms who have not met the key performance indicator to use 85% of matter starts awarded in each category of law at each office. This is technically a breach of the contract, so contract notices and/or sanctions may be issued. Practitioners who receive such a letter may wish to rely on what John Sirodcar, head of contract management at the LSC, told LAPG this week:
We contacted John Sirodcar Head of Contract Management at the LSC to ask about this. He said that “the LSC are not looking to issue Contract Notices in scenarios where there is good reason why the allocated NMS have not been used or where usage is close to the allocation. There are however many providers who have used very low volumes of NMS compared to the allocation and contract notices or other contract action will be focused on such scenarios”.
Finally, yet more litigation from the last tender round. This time a solicitor, Yvonne Hossack, who incorrectly filled out the tender forms has lost her judicial review. This judgement is of wider interest because of comments made about incorrect information given in previous litigation by the LSC about how far they were willing to go in allowing bidders to clarify their bids after submission. One year on, the fall-out from the last tender round is far from over.