Legal Aid Bill of Costs: Legal Costs Recovery

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Legal aid facilitates access to justice by helping cover the cost of legal advice, mediation and legal representation in Court for persons who are unable to afford legal fees.

Legal aid is only given to litigants in civil legal/family matters in certain circumstances. For a case to be deemed eligible for legal aid, the person involved must prove that they are unable to pay for legal assistance and the problem should be serious. The most common types of legal aid matters include aspects involving domestic violence, Children Act proceedings, family mediation, discrimination, cases where persons are at risk of homelessness, judicial review and cases where the person has been accused of a crime.

A legal aid Bill of Costs is a detailed statement of a party’s costs of litigation which is prepared by a Costs Draftsperson for detailed assessment by the Court or via the LAA on CCMS. This assessment describes the work completed by the Solicitor for a client on an item-by-item basis, and encompasses details of the individuals who completed the work, the time taken to complete such work and the charge accordingly. A legal aid bill of costs also includes additional expenses incurred by the Solicitor, such as Court fees, expert fees or travel expenses.


Legal Aid Bill of Costs

Typically in family law disputes, no order as to costs is given, save for assessment of the parties’ publicly funded costs.  This means that there is no entitlement to recover costs between the parties, but that any legally aided individual can seek to have a costs assessment by the LAA.  It is in these instances that a legal aid bill of costs will need to be prepared for assessment by the LAA. 

When a costs order is made in a party’s favour (an inter-partes costs order), the opposing party will be required to pay either the full or partial costs of the successful party. A detailed assessment of costs will be required which has to be assessed by the Court, and requires the preparation of a 6 column Bill of Costs to split the work between inter-partes and LAA only costs.

A six-column bill includes three columns which detail work being claimed from the Legal Aid Agency at prescribed legal aid rates and the other three columns include work being claimed from the unsuccessful paying party at private rates. Once the bill has been served on the paying party, they have 21 days in which to respond to the bill and serve Points of Dispute to contest such costs.

During a Court assessment, the Court will assess costs and adjust the figures accordingly however, if the parties have not agreed to settle the bill and have failed to serve Points of Dispute, a Default Costs Certificate will need to be obtained for the amount of the inter-partes aspect of the Bill. The certificate will need to be served upon the unsuccessful paying party and further attempts must be made to recover such costs.

When the 6 column Bill of Costs is prepared by the Costs Draftsman, they will have prepared a Schedule of Inter-Parties Costs as per legal aid rates. If the successful party is unable to recover costs from the paying party, then all work completed will need to be assessed according to legal aid rates and costs will need to be claimed from the fund. If however, costs are recovered from the paying party, the remainder of the legal aid costs may be claimed from the fund, unless the fixed fee scheme applies. Costs will be assessed by the Court if they sit above a certain threshold otherwise they will be assessed by the legal aid agency itself.


Cases Involving Fixed Fees

The process of claiming costs differs in cases which are subject to fixed fees, and allows the successful party to retain costs recovered inter partes and forgo a claim from the fund, or they may pay what is recovered into the legal aid fund and claim payment in full, from the legal aid agency. Where costs have been ordered for a part of the case and they are less than the fixed fee, paying into the fund and claiming the LAA payment in full from the agency is the most beneficial option for a publicly funded Solicitor.


How can ARC Costs Assist with Your Legal Aid Bill of Costs?

ARC Costs are specialist Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers that regularly assist in the quantification and recovery of costs/disbursements in both legal aid assessments and inter-partes costs disputes. We are always happy to help with costs challenges and can assist by drafting your legal aid bill of costs and submitting the same via CCMS for processing and/or on the paying party if inter-partes costs are recoverable.

Alternatively, depending on which side your interest falls on, as independent costs experts, we can also help in disputing the costs raised by a receiving party in any inter-partes dispute, and the extent of any disbursements incurred should there be reason to argue they are excessive.

We can also assist with advising on the recovery of costs and disbursements in all matters, and hold vast experience in preparing Bills of Costs, Schedules of Costs and Precedent Hs (Costs Budgets). We can negotiate costs on your behalf and provide representation in Detailed Assessment Proceedings.

Should you require our assistance or have a query you would like to discuss, please complete our online form and a costs expert will contact you to discuss further. Alternatively, please contact us on 01204 397302 or email us on

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01204 397302

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