Tag Archives: LAG

New LAG Legal Aid Handbook

We’re delighted that the new Handbook, 2018-19 edition, will be published at the end of this month.The new edition is fully revised and updated and packed full of useful advice, hints and tips and guidance. It’s the only fully comprehensive guide to the whole legal aid scheme, described by some readers as the ‘bible on legal aid’.

This edition welcomes a new general editor joining Vicky and Simon, Sue James. Sue needs no introduction to legal aid lawyers as a leading housing lawyer and the recipient of a LALY lifetime achievement award.

Anthony Edwards returns to edit the crime sections, and his vast experience and knowledge makes that section indispensable for criminal lawyers.

Returning contributors Steve Hynes and Richard Charlton have updated their chapters on policy and mental health. For this edition we have brand new content of interest to all civil legal aid lawyers from a range of expert practitioners:

  • Leading costs lawyer and chair of the ACL legal aid group Paul Seddon has revised and greatly extended the civil costs chapter
  • Simpson Millar solicitor and LALY nominee Silvia Nicolaou Garcia has contributed a brand new chapter on community care
  • Consultant and IT expert Jane Pritchard has written a detailed guide to using CCMS

Bigger and better than ever and fully up to date including the 2018 contracts, the Handbook is the one book no legal aid lawyer can afford to be without. Pre-order your copy now from the LAG Bookshop

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Crime, Family, Handbook, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Mental Health, Policy, Public Law, Social welfare

The new Handbook – coming very soon!

The brand new edition of the LAG Legal Aid Handbook will be published at the beginning of April. Fully revised and updated, this edition features

  • full coverage of the new 2017 crime contract
  • latest changes and updates to the civil scheme
  • discussion of current case law and hot topics in legal aid practice
  • hints, tips and practical advice from how to manage a contract to navigating CCMS
  • specialist chapters on billing, crime, public family law, private family law, housing, mental health, immigration and exceptional funding
  • a dedicated section for advocates
  • guidance on managing legal aid work and tendering for contracts
  • a full round up of the latest policy developments

The Handbook is edited by Vicky Ling and Simon Pugh, and features contributions from a range of subject experts including Anthony Edwards, Steve Hynes, Richard Charlton, Solange Valdez-Symonds and Katie Brown.

You can pre-order your copy now by e-mailing: direct.orders@marston.co.uk or phoning: 01235 465577, or by clicking here.


Filed under Actions Against the Police, Advocacy, Articles, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Crime, Family, Handbook, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Mental Health, Policy, Public Law, Social welfare

Upcoming training – with free books!

Our publisher LAG is running training courses by two of the Handbook’s editors as part of its autumn training programme.

Vicky Ling is delivering “Managing Civil Legal Aid Contracts” in London on 15 September. Participants get a free copy of the Handbook. More details here.

Anthony Edwards is embarking on a national tour speaking on criminal costs. Participants get a free copy of our sister publication, Anthony’s book (with Colin Beaumont) Criminal Costs. More details, including dates and venues, here.

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Crime, Family, Handbook, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

The New Handbook – coming soon

Legal Aid cover 15-16


The new edition of the LAG Legal Aid Handbook will be published in mid-September. With more content than ever before, it’s the only comprehensive guide to the whole legal aid scheme and is packed with case studies, checklists and practical advice. It’s right up to date, with full discussions of the latest caselaw and the recent changes to the civil merits tests. The crime chapters include a full guide to the new duty and own provider contracts starting in January 2016, and for the first time, we’ve included separate chapters on housing cases and exceptional funding.

We welcome back our collaborators Anthony Edwards (crime) and Steve Hynes (policy), and for this edition are delighted to add to the team Solange Valdez (immigration) and Richard Charlton (mental health).

For the first time, purchasers of the book will get access to a supporting website containing the full text of the Handbook, which we will keep up to date between editions – so your copy will always be right up to date. We’ll also continue to support the Handbook through our regular news updates and case reports, and our comprehensive resources page.

The 2015/16 LAG Legal Aid Handbook is available to pre-order now.

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Filed under Advocacy, Civil, Costs, Crime, Family, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Policy, Social welfare

Sorting myths from facts over housing cases

Many of our readers with an interest in housing legal aid will have seen the excellent article in this month’s Legal Action, “Sorting myths from facts over housing cases” by Sara Stephens and Jan Luba QC. Many of the citations in the article were to the legal aid reform FAQs issued when LASPO first came into force in 2013, but which are no longer available on the LAA website since it migrated to the gov.uk domain. Fortunately we saved a copy, and they are available here (final version) and on our LASPO Resources page, which also includes the two earlier versions.

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Summer sale – 20% off the Handbook

Our publisher LAG is running a summer sale. For August only, it is offering 20% off the Handbook and up to 30% off a range of its other excellent titles. Click here for more details of the offer.

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Low Commission calls for £100m for social welfare law

After a year long enquiry, the Low Commission has published its report on social welfare law advice and support. You can download the report here.

It calls for a national strategy for advice and legal support as the current approach is failing the poorest and most vulnerable.

Crucially, it has identified that £100m funding is needed, half from central government and the other half from other sources, including payday loan companies. The report also calls for:

  • A cross-departmental ministerial post to oversee the implementation of an advice and support strategy
  • Restoration of legal aid for housing cases so that people do not have to wait until eviction is imminent
  • Urgent reform of the exceptional case provisions under section 10 of LASPO, as they are clearly failing to provide a safety net

We hope that the report will be studied by all political parties as they consider their policy positions in the run up to the next Westminster elections.


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Filed under Civil, Housing, Policy, Social welfare

Introducing the new Handbook

1st April 2013. LASPO day. The day the new legal aid scheme began. Except, for most, it wasn’t. It was Easter Monday. Today is the real LASPO day, the day the cuts bite in earnest, the day that over 600,000 people will no longer get legal aid, the day some organisations won’t open their doors to greet their clients – and never will again.

For those of us left, there is a whole new legal aid scheme to get used to. New contracts, new rules, new legislation. We start again almost from scratch.

What should have happened is that the MoJ and LSC planned an orderly transition. Contracts issued; guidance written; regulations laid. And all in good time to allow us to be trained and understand the new scheme.

What did happen is that many crucial regulations were not laid until a couple of weeks ago; guidance is still being published today, and the LAA’s training programme is only half complete. Those who have attended the training in the last couple of weeks will know that the stock answers to most questions are “we are waiting for the MoJ to issue guidance on that” and “we don’t know, we’ll put it in the FAQ on the website”. Even some of the LAA’s own staff don’t understand the new scheme. Some essential material – like amendments to the crime contract specification – have not yet even been published and so can’t come into force for at least another six weeks.

We have tried to produce a Handbook that practitioners will find useful. As new material has been released we have drafted and re-drafted. The Handbook is the only single volume comprehensive guide to the legal aid scheme, and we want to keep it that way. As of 10 days ago, we had finally got all the crucial civil material and had a final draft of the civil, contract management and policy sections complete. Thanks to the herculean efforts of our publisher, Legal Action Group – and especially Esther Pilger, who has moved heaven and earth – we were able to go from final draft to publication within a week. All that we needed was the amendments to the criminal contract specification, and we were ready to go. The LSC – as it still was – said that they would be implemented by the end of April, which meant publication by mid-March. That came and went with no further explanation, and we still don’t have them.

But without them we can’t finalise the crime chapters. This left us in a real dilemma. If we waited – for who knows how long? – for the crime position to be finalised, those of our readers waiting for the civil sections would not get the Handbook at the start of April, when it is needed most. If we publish at the start of April, our crime readers would not have the correct information about their contracts. And we don’t know – and can’t get the LAA to tell us – how long it will be before the April amendments to the crime contract are published. April? May? Longer?

So we have come up with a solution that we hope will work. We are releasing the new edition of the Handbook as an e-book only today. This contains fully up to date and complete material for everything except the three crime chapters (which are updated as far as we could prior to the publication of all the material). You can download it from Amazon here. As soon as we can, we will finalise the crime chapters and will then release an update of the e-book (entirely free to those who have already bought it) and publish the paper version. We will keep you informed through this website about our progress.

The e-book is a Kindle version, which can be read on a Kindle device, or using the Kindle app on a desktop computer, ipad, iphone or Android phone or tablet, and you can find details of how to do so here

For those who pre-ordered the paper edition, we apologise for the delay in publication and we hope you understand that it was entirely out of our hands. We can not release the paper edition before it is accurate and complete. But rather than just waiting to publish the paper version we wanted to make sure that all those who needed the information from the start of April were able to get it, so we are publishing in two stages. We know this is not an ideal situation; but it is not of our making and this is the best way forward we can come up with. We waited as long as we could; had the crime amendments come out last week, we could have published the paper version this week. But if we waited any longer, the Handbook would not be available to civil lawyers facing the biggest change in a generation.

Perhaps we should have anticipated it; but even with our combined experience of working in legal aid, we did not predict that the MoJ and LSC/LAA would be so shambolic as to not manage to publish the contractual framework governing the implementation of the legal aid Act until after it came into force. This is not tragedy repeating itself as farce, this is both happening at the same time.

Not a good start.





Filed under Civil, Crime, Family, Handbook, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Social welfare

LASPO: help is at hand

This article, previewing the new edition of the Handbook, first appeared in the February 2013 issue of Legal Action and is reproduced here with permission and thanks. The new edition of the Handbook will be published for the start of the new scheme in April and you can download the Kindle edition here

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 is introducing the most fundamental changes to legal aid in a generation, so even experienced legal aid practitioners will need guidance and support. The LAG Legal Aid Handbook 2013/14 is the only comprehensive single-volume guide to the civil, family and criminal legal aid schemes under the LASPO Act. For this edition, the existing editorial team (Vicky Ling, independent legal services consultant, and Simon Pugh, head of legal services at Shelter) has been joined by Tony Edwards, the well-known practitioner who writes and lectures widely on criminal law.

Explaining the new scheme

The Handbook is divided into three parts. Part A is aimed at solicitors and caseworkers. It sets out a step-by-step guide to the way legal aid works and where to find the guidance available on the legal aid website. It contains an explanation of the LASPO Act so that you will understand what is still in scope and what is out. The key parts for legal aid are Part 1 (which contains the enabling powers for the new scheme) and Schedule 1 (which sets out what work is in scope in future).

Schedule 1 is not easy to understand and requires a certain amount of cross-referencing and double, or even triple, negatives to be navigated to understand whether a case is in fact in or out of scope. The schedule is in four parts; Part 1 lists types of proceedings which are in scope, but is subject to Part 2 (which excludes certain types of action) and Part 3 (which excludes certain courts and tribunals), as well as the definitions in Part 4. So, in order to see whether a case is in scope, you need to check that it is included by Part 1 but not excluded by Part 2, and that the venue is included in Part 3 if you wish to provide advocacy. The Handbook contains a useful table summarising what is in and out of scope in each category, which will help you to find the way through this complex framework and focus on your clients.

The Handbook runs through the different levels of funding, and explains what is meant by controlled work and what is referred to as licensed or certificated work, in all their many variations. This will be particularly useful to those not for profit agencies which will be undertaking full legal representation for the first time.

Some changes are significant, others appear cosmetic – it is hard to see why ‘devolved powers’ needed to be renamed ‘delegated functions’ under the LASPO Act. There are subject-specific chapters in the Handbook which deal with categories of law which have their own rules. Private family law will be hardest hit by the LASPO Act, so scope issues and level 2 fees are particularly important. There are also chapters on public family law, mediation, mental health immigration/asylum and crime.

There are chapters on getting paid for your work, tailored to the whole range of civil/family and crime fee schemes. The Handbook also has a useful appendix summarising which casework activities you can claim for, as well as covering costs assessment and appeals procedures.

Part B deals with legal aid advocacy in relation to civil, family and crime, making the Handbook equally relevant to solicitor advocates and counsel.

Management, visits and audits Part C covers the management of legal aid work, which – despite repeated attempts to reform it – remains as challenging as ever. It provides a summary of key contractual requirements and considers tender requirements. It covers the quality standards required for legal aid contracts, including a detailed analysis of what you will need to do if switching from Specialist Quality Mark to Lexcel accreditation. The new service standards in respect of supervision and key performance indicators are covered to ensure that you do not fall foul of the contract. Part C also covers the financial management of contracts, including payment options for controlled work, and payments on account.

The many and various audits are explained. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has stated that if, from the management information evidence that it has, it appears that you are complying with contractual requirements, it is likely that you will have only one contract manager visit a year and will not be audited further. The LSC distinguishes between a contract manager visit, which it does not count as a formal audit, and formal audits, carried out by members of the provider assurance team. The distinction is lost on many practitioners, who emerge having to repay money, whichever process has been used.

According to the LSC, audits are undertaken to provide the Ministry of Justice with assurance that the legal aid fund has been spent correctly and to eliminate the cause of irregularities and errors identified by the National Audit Office, which have led to the LSC’s annual accounts being qualified in recent years. The LSC needs to achieve an overall level of ‘materiality of error’ of less than one per cent. This means that in the small samples taken by contract managers at on-site audits, you are aiming for a zero per cent error rate. This is not easy! However, the Handbook will ensure that you know what LSC staff (Legal Aid Agency staff from 1 April 2013) are looking for and you can pass any inspection.

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

Weekly round up

In this update:

  • Legal aid judicial reviews
  • Legal aid bill in the House of Lords
  • Important news for former clients of the Immigration Advisory Service
  • Criminal bills
  • Family high cost cases
  • New LSC addresses

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Filed under Civil, Costs, Crime, Family, Immigration, LASPO