Legal Aid Agency and Legal Costs

 

 

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What is the Legal Aid Agency?

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is the government agency responsible for providing legal aid in England and Wales. It is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The LAA administers the Legal Aid Scheme which provides funding for individuals who cannot afford to pay for legal representation and advice.

Legal aid is available for a variety of cases, including civil and criminal legal cases, family cases, mental health and immigration cases.

  1. Criminal cases: Criminal legal aid is available for individuals accused of a crime, including representation in the police station, in the magistrates’ court, and in the Crown Court.
  2. Family cases: Legal aid is available for some family matters, such as child contact and residence disputes, adoption, and domestic violence cases.
  3. Immigration cases: Legal aid is available for immigration and asylum cases, including representation in immigration tribunals and appeals.
  4. Civil cases: Legal aid is available for certain types of civil cases, such as housing, debt, and welfare benefits.
  5. Mental health cases: Legal aid is available for individuals who are subject to the Mental Health Act and representation in mental health tribunals.

Legal aid is only available for those who pass the means and merits test. The merits test means the case must have reasonable prospects of success, the means test is to check if the person can afford to pay for the legal representation.

 

Recovering costs from the Legal Aid Agency

Solicitors who provide legal services under the legal aid scheme can recover their costs from the Legal Aid Agency by quantifying their costs and submitting either Payments on Account (POAs) or an interim or final bill for aspects of work completed. The LAA has specific rules and guidelines that solicitors must follow when submitting invoices, which include providing detailed information about the work done and the costs incurred.

The LAA will assess each bill to ensure that it complies with the rules and guidelines for legal aid billing. If the bill is accepted, the LAA will request for evidence in support (such as a narrative as to the work, and supporting documents such as Court Orders and invoices for disbursements), and will pay the Solicitor for the work done.  Often the LAA may allow 100% of what is claimed, but some reductions may apply on assessment if amounts are incorrectly/unreasonably claimed, or if any enhancements sought have been reduced.

It is always beneficial to instruct a knowledgeable Legal Aid Costs Draftsman to maximise the fixed/hourly rate fees which can be claimed.

Legal aid costs draftsmen are specialist lawyers in the area of legal costs which deal specifically with costs claims submitted to the Legal Aid Agency.  Under exceptional costs cases (to which a fixed fee does not apply), the costs of your Costs Draftsman/Lawyer preparing the Bill will be recoverable from the LAA.

 

Inter-Partes Costs Orders

In some cases, including civil and family disputes, an inter-partes costs order may be made by the Court. This means that one party is ordered to pay the legal costs of the other party. In these circumstances, the Receiving Party will be expected to first attempt to seek their costs from the opponent, as opposed to from the Legal Aid Agency. The indemnity principle does not apply in respect of hourly rates in publicly funded cases, and higher than legal aid rates are often claimed from a Paying Party. Such inter-partes costs orders can often arise in matters involving damages or assets, such as financial disputes (ancillary relief) or housing disputes/judicial reviews.

 

Legal Aid Agency Statutory Charges

The LAA sets statutory charges for certain types of legal services that are provided under the Legal Aid Scheme. These charges are applied to the cost of legal services and are used to recover a portion of the costs of the scheme.

Statutory charges are generally applied to cases that are funded through legal aid and are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The amount of the statutory charge will depend on the type of legal service being provided and the financial circumstances of the person receiving the service.

Quite often, if a legally aided funded party recovers damages in their case, they may be required to pay a proportion of this to the Legal Aid Agency as a statutory charge.

Additionally, if a party keeps or gains property under legal aid representation, and the full amount of legal costs are not recovered from the opponent in any inter-partes costs dispute, they may be required to pay costs back to the Legal Aid Agency which have been paid on account.

Full guidance can be found in the Civil Finance Electronic Handbook.

 

How can ARC Costs assist with Legal Aid Agency Costs?

Our team of highly skilled Law Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers regularly assist in all types of costs claims, including publicly funded and inter-partes costs claims, with our client base ranging from law firms to Litigants in Person. In inter-partes disputes, we can also assist either paying parties and receiving parties.

Using our expert costing service, we help clients maximize their recovered legal costs whilst providing expert legal advice and minimising the risk of rejected claims from the Legal Aid Agency, to ensure you maintain your KPIs.

We regularly use the CCMS system to submit legal aid costs claims and deal with all the administration on behalf of our clients and to free up the time of fee earners, thereby ensuring you can recover your maximum legal aid fees in an expeditious and efficient manner. 

To find out more about how we can provide you with assistance, please contact us at 01204 397302 or email our team of experts at info@arccosts.co.uk.  Alternatively, please use our free chat facility to speak to an expert directly.

 

 

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info@arccosts.co.uk

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