In this update:
- Latest news on the civil tender
- Duty solicitors must be employed
- Criminal re-accreditation delayed
- Supplementary legal aid scheme scrapped
- Family experts – independent social worker fees
- Family advocates – claiming for travel
- Billing civil cases
- Defence Costs Orders
- Provider reference groups scheduled
Latest news on civil tenders
The LSC have now released the first round of FAQs for both the face to face and housing court duty scheme tenders. A second batch will be released next week, and the deadline for submission of questions (via the e-tendering portal) is noon on Monday 8th October. A useful article by David Gilmore at LegalVoice analyses some of the tender criteria.
Duty solicitors must be employed
The LSC has issued a “clarification” via its website reminding practitioners that duty solicitors must be employed by the firm through which they are on rota schemes. Employed is defined as operating under a contract of service (or partnership or as a sole principal) for at least two full days per week, and consultancy / freelance models are specifically excluded. Consultant and freelance duty solicitors have become increasingly common in recent years and it is not clear why the LSC have issued this clarification now or if they intend to undertake any immediate enforcement action. However, firms and solicitors will want to bear it in mind as the next CDS12 deadline approaches as such arrangements are a breach of contract. This issue has been discussed at Criminal Contract Consultative Group meetings, and for example in December 2011 it was said
It was agreed that, provided that DSs were identified as designated fee earners and were properly supervised with their files reviewed, there was no cause for concern. It was noted that freelance arrangements were often the preferred choice for solicitors with young children and any other practitioner that wanted flexible working times.
It was agreed that the LSC and representative bodies would discuss the relevant wording in the Contract before the next tender and that Contract Managers would be asked to refer instances of grave concern to JSirodcar, whilst dealing with lesser non-compliance issues directly with the provider.
Criminal re-accreditation delayed
The Law Society has postponed plans to require members of the Criminal Litigation Accreditation Scheme to be re-accredited every 5 years. All existing members of the scheme who have been on it for more than 5 years will have their membership extended to next June. See the Gazette.
Supplementary legal aid scheme scrapped
The Gazette also reports an announcement from the MoJ that the supplementary legal aid scheme, included in LASPO, has been scrapped. The scheme would have taken 25% of the damages awarded in legally aided clinical negligence cases, but was heavily criticised as it would have left brain-damaged babies – the only group who will still be eligible for clinical negligence legal aid – under-compensated for their injuries.
Independent social worker fees in family cases
Independent social workers may be instructed in family cases to provide a social work report, and the hourly rate permitted for this work is £33 per hour (£30 outside London), with no provisions for higher rates. However, they may also be instructed to carry out a risk assessment, and the hourly rate for that work is £63 per hour. The LSC have now issued guidance on which rates should apply and family practitioners will need to consider it carefully. See the experts page of the LSC website.
Family advocates – claiming for travel
The LSC have issued guidance to advocates claiming travel expenses in family cases.
Billing civil cases
The LSC have confirmed that they only want providers to send in the full file of papers with the bill for assessment where the bill is for more than £2500 (generally it will only be in cases where proceedings have not been issued, or are in the Family Proceedings Court, that such cases will go to the LSC rather than the court for assessment) or where a family fixed fee is escaped. This document, setting out what to send for particular types of claim, is useful.
Defence Costs Orders
The new regime for defence costs orders in criminal cases came into force at the start of the month. The Law Society have issued a useful practice note.
Provider reference groups
The LSC have announced a new round of provider reference group meetings. To see the schedule of meetings and to book a place, see the LSC website.
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