Recovering your Legal Aid costs during the Covid-19 Lockdown

May 01, 2020 | Vanessa Brown

legal aid costs coronavirusThe government lockdown restrictions were implemented on 23 March 2020 and we all rapidly came to terms with a new way of working and communicating with each other.  Business continuity plans which we had all hoped would never be needed were quickly implemented and, thanks to modern technology, we have been able to continue working with minimal impact.

Cash flow for any firm is important and it is reassuring to see that the Legal Aid Agency has quickly implemented contingencies to help firms through this period. For firms of solicitors who undertake Legal Aid work it is important to know that they continue to be supported.

Not only has the LAA suspended time limits for submissions (to include delegated function applications, substantive amendments and also deadlines to submit appeals) but it has also helpfully and importantly extended the time limit for emergency certificates from eight weeks (in most cases) to twelve weeks.  With this increase in time limit also comes a wider scope limitation and higher cost limitation of £2500.

More importantly, though, the LAA has now put procedures in place to enable solicitors to receive quick payment of costs during this Covid-19 lockdown.

It is in the case of paper claims, where costs are usually highest, that the most helpful changes have been introduced by the LAA. (Submission of CCMS claims remains as in pre-Covid-19 days.)

In response to the Covid-19 emergency the LAA has implemented a contingency where it will now pay 100% Payments on Account for profit costs where a matter has concluded.

Costs can be claimed from the LAA by way of a new form, a POAC1 (POA Contingency Form).  This POAC1 can be submitted by email with proof of costs incurred, including by way of a completed Bill of Costs. Submitting a POAC1 will enable your firm to receive a payment on account for 100% of the final profit costs in a matter. Furthermore, the LAA has confirmed it will make a 100% POA payment even where Counsel has outstanding fees.

The LAA has confirmed that these payments on account will not replace the need for a formal Bill of Costs, as the LAA will require Final Bills to be submitted for assessment at a later date once restrictions are eased.

How Elite Law Solicitors can help

legal aid costs coronavirusWe, in the Legal Costs team at Elite Law Solicitors, can assist you through this process of completing and submitting the Final Bills of Costs and POAC1 form, to enable you to receive this contingency 100% POA as quickly as possible. Once the restrictions are lifted these Final Bills can be submitted immediately for final assessment, so avoiding incurring unnecessary additional work.  Please contact Vanessa Brown at vbrown@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or Jo Williams at jwilliams@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk and we will be pleased to assist you with this process.

We also appreciate that with the current Covid-19 restrictions many firms are now running their physical offices with only a skeleton staff, it therefore is more difficult to get files to Costs Lawyers and Costs Draftsmen to enable them to be costed.  To assist you and to enable our Legal Costs team to carry out work without the need for paper files, Elite Law can now import files electronically.  Esmer Alkanovic (ealjkanovic@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk) would be only too happy to run through this process with you.

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