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LAPG Certificate in Practice Management

Most managers in legal aid organisations are ‘accidental managers’. They are good at their job, which might be as a lawyer, finance person or administrator, and  get promoted; but often they don’t actually get trained as managers.

In 2015, Legal Aid Practitioners Group got funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to work with legal aid practitioners to design training and development that would meet their particular needs.  They now have a tried and tested programme, based on the SQM, Lexcel, legal aid contract compliance and incorporating a wide range of good practice. It is suitable for both solicitors firms in private practice and NfP agencies with legal aid contracts.

It offers 60 hours of learning and development, mainly during face to face sessions but also putting what you have learned into practice in your workplace and online learning. The next programme starts in November:

Session 1 Financial Management – 18 November 2016 Understanding the financial implications of running a legal aid practice, understanding accounts, setting budgets, cash flow and forecasting.

Session 2 – Business Planning and Risk Management – 13 January 2017 Also includes gathering management information and using dashboards to review performance and track key metrics.

Session 3 – Legal Aid Contracts, Marketing and developing your profile – 24 February 2017 Senior managers from the LAA will help you understand the contract from the LAA’s perspective. Marketing expert, Jo Edwards, will show you how you can raise awareness of your practice, projects and services, with a particular emphasis on online and social media.

Session 4 – Managing people – 24 March 2017 Matt Howgate and Vicky Ling will help you work through the challenges of managing staff, including setting targets, supervision, bullying and inappropriate behaviour and equality and diversity.

NFP session – 21 April 2017 Fundraising and income generation.

Cost – £1400 for LAPG members – £1600 – non-members Includes all sessions, handouts on all topics covered, ‘grab and go’ guides, textbooks on finance (by Andrew Otterburn) and best management practice for professionals (by Fiona Westwood), lunches and refreshments throughout.

Contact Chris Minnoch

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Supreme Court judgment in residence test case

The Supreme Court has issued its judgment in the residence test. As we reported at the time of the hearing, the Court took the very unusual step of upholding the appeal partway through the case. It’s now given its reasons.

In The Public Law Project, R (on the application of) v Lord Chancellor [2016] UKSC 39, Lord Neuburger gave the only judgment, the other six justices agreeing. He only dealt with the first ground of appeal – ultra vires – it being agreed that, as the case won on that ground alone it wasn’t necessary to deal with the other ground (discrimination).

Lord Neuburger held that LASPO defines what civil legal aid services are to be made available by reference to the issue of law, the nature of the services and the need and ability to pay of the individual requiring the services. There is nothing in the Act that excludes groups of people on the grounds of personal circumstances or personal characteristics beyond that – such as resident status – and nothing in the Act that enables such an exclusion to be brought in using the powers given to make secondary legislation. He also noted the strong presumption in statutory interpretation that every Act applies not just to persons belonging to the territory affected by the Act, but also to “foreigners…within its territory”.

We’ve remarked before on the varying interpretations of the statutory purpose of LASPO. Lord Neuburger addressed that as well; “the purpose of Part 1 of LASPO was, in very summary terms, to channel civil legal aid on the basis of the nature and importance of the issue, an individual’s need for financial support, the availability of other funding, and the availability of other forms of dispute resolution. The exclusion of individuals from the scope of most areas of civil legal aid on the ground that they do not satisfy the residence requirements of the proposed order involves a wholly different sort of criterion from those embodied in LASPO and articulated in the 2011 paper.” This is a helpful formulation, putting the emphasis back on targeting need rather than reducing costs.

However, although it’s now clear that the residence test can’t be brought in by statutory instrument, it still could be done by primary legislation. The previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, made clear he supported that – though no legislative plans had been announced. It remains to be seen whether Theresa May – and whoever she appoints as Lord Chancellor – agrees.


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Filed under Civil, Family, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Public Law, Social welfare, Uncategorized

Court of Appeal says domestic violence evidence requirements unlawful

In Rights of Women, R (on the application of) v The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice [2016] EWCA Civ 91, the Court of Appeal found that Regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012, as amended, was unlawful because it frustrates the statutory purpose of LASPO.

Reg 33 is the regulation which sets out the strict evidential criteria that applicants for legal aid have to meet to qualify for legal aid because of domestic violence. This is important because most private family law is now out of scope, unless it can be shown that the applicant is a victim of domestic violence. Reg 33, often known as the domestic violence gateway, sets out the evidence that must be produced by an applicant to demonstrate that she (as is most often the case) is such a victim. The regulation is strictly drawn; only evidence of the type set out is permitted, and then only (with the exception of criminal records and proceedings) when it dates from no more than 24 months before the application.

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Filed under Civil, Family, LASPO, Policy, Uncategorized

Mediation providers get more time

The Legal Aid Agency is changing the submission date for mediation claims from the 10th of the month to the 20th. This brings the submission date in line with crime and civil claims. The next claim is now due by 20th January 2016.

You should have received official notification from the LAA; but any queries should be sent to

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Crime contracts verification deadline 8 December 2015

The Legal Aid Agency has written to all successful bidders asking them to submit verification evidence by 23.59 on Tuesday 8 December, if they want to do work from the revised new Own Client and Duty contract start date of 1 April 2016.

Firms that have already been asked to submit some verifiation evidence for their successful Duty bids are being asked for additional information, including completed Supervisor forms, whether for ‘crime only’ or prison law as part of their own client contract bid. There is only one Supervisor form for ‘crime only’ as opposed to the five forms under the 2010 contract. Forms can be found here.

The LAA will also carry out further checks on staffing, offices and implementation of the delivery plan submitted by successful bidders, in the run up to 1 April, where it can start Duty Contracts from that date.

1 April 2016

The LAA says it intends to start the new Own Client and Duty Contracts from 1 April 2016 where possible; but where this is not possible due to ongoing litigation, it will allocate work under ‘contingency duty rotas’ to those holding Own Client Contracts. Firms can opt out of being included on these rot as if they do not want to do duty work.

Further information

The Law Society has provided some useful information, including provisions between January and April for new firms not holding a 2010 Contract.


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Changes to civil forms

There have been changes to a number of civil forms, with effect from 1 November. The affected forms are:

  • CW3A

Any forms signed or dated from 1 November onwards must be the new ones. Forms signed before 1 November must be submitted by 30 November. You can see all the forms on the LAA website here.

Out now – new editions of the LAG Legal Aid Handbook and the Solicitors Office Procedure Manual 

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Solicitors Office Manual – new edition

Solicitors OPM Cover

Hundreds of law firms in private practice have used ‘The Solicitors Office Procedures Manual’ to update or replace their existing office manuals since it was published in 2009. The second edition is now available and has been fully updated so that it complies with:

  • The SRA Code of Conduct
  • Lexcel 6
  • CQS procedures (section G)
  • Law Society’s Core Practice Management Standards
  • Specialist quality Mark 2014
  • Legal Aid Agency Contract requirements

There is also a version of ‘The Solicitors Office Procedures Manual’ which has been adapted to the needs of sole practitioners.

To purchase a copy of either version, visit the SOPM website.

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Filed under Civil, Crime, Family, Housing, Immigration, Social welfare, Uncategorized

News from LAPG conference

As always, LAPG conference was packed with essential information, inspiring speeches (particularly Richard Miller from the Law Society and Steve Hynes from LAG) and practitioners sharing hints and tips and generally networking. Lawyers could get their fix of black letter law as well. People who couldn’t make it were able to follow on Twitter – we even started trending! Who says people aren’t interested in legal aid?

Hugh Barrett, Director of Legal Aid Commissioning at the Legal Aid Agency updated us on the government’s appeal on the introduction of a residence test (which we covered here). It will be heard next week and judgment is expected before Christmas.

He also said that news on the 2013 contract (which covers family, housing and debt, and immigration/asylum) will be available in the next month; but it is likely that the contract will be extended.

Best tips were from Wendy Hewstone (Managing Partner at Access Law) who said taking credit cards was the best thing they have done recently to improve cash flow and David Gilmore (DG Legal) who did a survey of 38 firms out of hours and found only 2 had any kind of telephone answering service – an easy way of improving client access.

Lord Bach updated us on the Labour party’s review of legal aid and presented certificates to those present who had completed LAPG’s Certificate in Practice Management. The pilot course had funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills which enabled LAPG to create 60 hours of management training which is unique in being tailored to legal aid practice (whether in private practice or not for profit).

The course covers:

  • People management
  • Business and strategic planning
  • Financial maangement
  • Managing legal aid contracts
  • Compliance, risk management and data security
  • Marketing
  • And provides access to resources through the Chartered Management Institute

People said they used tools from the course straight away – creating dashboards for management information and business planning which helped with Lexcel assessment. Comments from the first cohort included: ‘I didn’t think I needed training before I did the CPM but looking back, I can see I did’, ‘Has given me more confidence’ . The time management module by Matthew Moore was particularly popular – and it’s a free download.

To express an interest in the course for early 2016 (likely cost £1500), email Carol Storer






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Following the summer break, we’ve updated our Resources page to include the new merits test regulations, the latest guidance on family high cost cases and more. Hopefully it is now fully up to date, but as ever we’d be glad to hear of suggestions for additions and improvements in the comments below.

We won’t be making any more amendments to the 2013/14 Handbook Updates page. All these amendments and more are included in the new edition of the Handbook, which will be published later this month (reserve your copy here). As the new edition is published, we’ll update you on arrangements for keeping it up to date.

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Crime tender JR fails

Judgment was handed down yesterday in the JR taken by the crime practitioner representative bodies.  The challenge was not successful.

Although there was some criticism of the Legal Aid Agency’s handling of issues in relation to financial support for firms, Lord Justice Laws said: ‘I should conclude without hesitation that the scheme is proportionate. It is accepted on all hands that consolidation in the legal aid market is needed, if legal aid is to be provided at reduced fees. It may reasonably be concluded that this is a proper way to achieve it.’

Permission to appeal was refused but the injunction suspending the tender remains in place until 27 February 2015, to enable the claimants to seek leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal. The grounds of appeal can be found here.

In the meantime, the LAA has stated that it intends to resume the tender as soon as possible.


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