Legal Aid High Cost Case Contract

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What is a Legal Aid High Cost Case Contract?

A Legal Aid High Cost Case Contract refers to the contractual documents and guidelines necessary when applying for legal aid in civil cases that are expected to incur high costs. The documents typically include a contract template, a schedule template, a counsel acceptance form template, and specific case contract specifications.

For a complete understanding and the official documents, please refer to the UK Government’s guidance on Civil High Cost Case Contracts.

 

High Cost Case Contracts in Family Law Cases

In England and Wales, when a family case becomes legally aided and incurs high costs—typically expected to exceed £25,000—it is managed under a High Cost Case Contract. The Legal Aid Agency oversees these contracts through two teams:

  • The High Cost Family (HCF) team handles all single and King’s Counsel (KC)/2 counsel/advocate cases in private and public law family matters.
  • The Exceptional and Complex Case Team (ECCT) manages all prior authority requests for KC/2 counsel cases and Court of Protection cases, providing technical oversight and support to the HCF team.

For public law types of cases (care and other public law aspects), the Care Case Fee Scheme (CCFS) is often used. This simplifies case planning by assigning set values to specific events. This scheme can be applied in certain private law and other child cases that follow a fact-finding route with main hearings over ten days. If a case is exceptional and the CCFS would not adequately remunerate, then a detailed (fully costed) case plan can be applied for instead, though this requires exceptional circumstances to be demonstrated (such as costs significantly the expected Events comparison, due to novel or unusual factors of the case).

This detailed plan will describe the case, assess its prospects, outline the legal and factual issues to be addressed, and detail the costs involved, including the selection of counsel and experts.

Counsel fees under the CCFS or a detailed case plan are predetermined and may be guided by the Family Graduated Fee Scheme, for which a fee calculator has been developed to assist in estimating equivalent costs​​​​​​.

Solicitor advocates involved in these cases must navigate the specific guidelines and make use of the appropriate templates and forms provided by the Legal Aid Agency to ensure proper remuneration for their services.

 

Recovering Legal Costs in a High Cost Case

Assessment of legal costs in Very High Cost Cases (VHCCs) is carried out using various methods.

For Care Case Fee Schemes that follow an Events model, solicitors are required to submit an Events-based case plan, either interim for cash flow purposes or final, to agree on increased cost limitations.

The choice of Events model for care/public law cases depends on the representation configuration, which could be a single solicitor advocate, a pair of counsel members, or a Leading Counsel.

For family-related matters, all costs are meticulously itemised in a comprehensive case plan based on hourly rates. These cases are classified as VHCCs and require a detailed case plan for the Legal Aid Agency’s (LAA) approval.

It is imperative that in family matters, where an hourly rates VHCC will apply, that the matter is registered as a high costs matter as soon as it is known that the costs are likely to exceed £25,000.  Failure to do so will often lead to costs up to the date of the registration, to be capped at the maximum £25,000 allowed under a regular certificate, irrespective of the work done.

On approval of VHCC registration, the Legal Aid Agency will ask for submission of the case plan, which will then be reviewed to determine the exceptional nature of the case before approving additional funds. This might lead to a negotiation over the costs, unlike the fixed rates associated with an Events case plan.

 

How can ARC Costs Assist?

The team of knowledgeable Costs Lawyers and Costs Draftsmen at ARC Costs can assist clients with a variety of costs matters, including costs recovery for cases under a Legal Aid High Cost Case Contract.

In legal aid funded matters, we can produce the required costing instruments and obtain an assessment of costs from the LAA. Furthermore, due to our extensive experience in the costs law industry, we can be trusted to provide reliable advice.

To find out more about how we can provide you with assistance, please contact one of the team at info@arccosts.co.uk, or call one of the team on 01204 397302. Alternatively, please use our free chat facility to speak to an expert directly regarding High Cost Case Plans.

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