One per cent inspiration
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Marc Bloomfield
Description: Practice management
The Legal Aid Agency’s tips on getting certificate applications right.
Thomas Edison said that genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration. A similar ratio operates in respect of successful applications for legal aid – you need a flash of inspired lawyering and a lot of technical know-how. The most common reason for refusing legal aid is because the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has not received sufficient information, eg, there is a lack of statements, court orders and expert reports.
This article shares some of the reasons that the LAA has provided to the Civil Contracts Consultative Group about why applications are rejected and its tips for getting things right. The LAA makes mistakes too, and has recently launched the Civil Application Fixer service, similar to the popular ‘claim fix’ for bills, where you can send an email1applicationfixer@justice.gov.uk to a specialist team resulting in quick correction of any LAA errors.
Merits – housing
The LAA has passed on two hints for selecting the right drop-down on CCMS (the client and cost management system):
1If applying for representation on Part 1 injunction proceedings under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, these fall under your residual contract and not housing. It advises you to select the nuisance matter type.
2For appeals to the county court under Housing Act 1996 s204, the correct proceeding option to select is ‘Homelessness-Housing Act 1996 – Housing’.
Merits – family
If applying for a non-molestation order and the statement to court does not detail any recent police involvement, the LAA asks that you provide the information in the merits report or on a separate document, as it has to ensure para 10.29 of the Lord chancellor’s guidance under section 4 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (December 2020, page 48) is complied with.
Means
The top five reasons for rejection are:
1passported/non-passported clients – the means the report does not match the declaration;
2assessment figures calculated by the LAA do not tally with the figures outlined in the means report;
3the client is self-employed but this is not detailed in the means report;
4an undeclared partner; and
5undeclared property.
The LAA’s tips are:
make sure the client has provided bank statements for each account declared;
account for any credits on bank accounts from sources not declared on the means report;
try to ensure that the last transactions on the statements for each bank account are within a month of the application date;
ensure that evidence provided for childcare is by way of receipts rather than invoices; and
if your client has a mortgage, remember to ask them to provide a copy of their latest annual mortgage statement.
Prior authority
The Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) Regulations 2013 SI No 422 set rates for most types of expert. If you need to exceed these, or the expert you need is not covered, you should apply for prior authority. The LAA provides guidance and a hints and tips document to help you get this right. The top five reasons for rejection are:
1no court order;
2the amount requested is incorrect;
3no estimate;
4no letter of instruction; and
5the application is retrospective.
 
1     applicationfixer@justice.gov.uk »

About the author(s)

Description: Vicky Ling - author
Vicky Ling is a consultant specialising in legal aid practice and a founder member of the Law Consultancy Network.