The Law Society has issued a new practice note setting out the requirements of the legal aid contracts and of professional conduct in deciding whether to accept instructions in criminal legal aid cases.
It reminds practitioners that, in the main, only duty solicitors acting as such are required to take on work – and then only of the types prescribed in the contract.
It also sets out the relevant professional conduct obligations. These apply both at the level of individual cases – such as the duty to advise of the availability of legal aid before accepting private instructions – but also at the level of practice management. There is a particular obligation on COLPs and COFAs to ensure their practices are managed responsibly, which includes financial prudence.
There is nothing new in the practice note but it comes at a time when changes to Crown Court fees and to court appointed work are under consideration (though no decisions will be made until after the general election). It reminds practitioners that they are not required to take on all cases and that there may be circumstances where there is a professional duty not to do so. The bar took a similar approach some years ago when it deemed criminal fees not to be a proper fee, thus exempting these cases from the cab rank rule.
Filed under Costs, Crime, Policy
As we have been reporting for some time, there is considerable concern among practitioners about delays in processing at the LSC. Various attempts to improve turnaround times have been tried, including diverting staff from answering the phone and extending emergency certificates to eight weeks.
There have been some improvements as a result, but not to a level that most practitioners would consider to be acceptable. Delays in processing have a number of consequences; late grants or amendments to certificates can cause difficulties and delays in casework and expose practitioners to going unpaid for work done in the meantime; late payment of bills can have serious cashflow implications.
The Law Society have now published a new practice note, which helpfully sets out the LSC’s contractual obligations to pay bills and the relevant law on seeking interest and compensation for late payment.
Current processing times at the LSC can be seen on the civil and criminal pages of their website.
Filed under Civil, Costs, Crime
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
Many practitioners will have experienced delays in payment as a result of ongoing processing issues at the LSC – see our various posts on this issue.
The Law Society have written to the major banks alerting them to the issue and have had positive responses from Lloyds TSB, Santander, RBS and Nationwide. The Society asked for leniency from the banks towards firms experiencing cashflow issues, and advises firms to discuss with their bank how much they are owed and the impact of delays.