Authors:Vicky Ling
Last updated:2023-10-03
Learning from mistakes
Marc Bloomfield
Description: Practice management
How to get the Legal Aid Agency to process your work more quickly.
It’s always a disappointment if the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) rejects (for a technical error) or refuses (on means or merits) an application or a claim. It can start to feel as though the LAA is out to get you, but the statistics show this isn’t so. From January to March 2022, the LAA granted 90 per cent of applications and refused five per cent. Two per cent of applications were withdrawn. Three per cent were rejected for further information or the client did not take up the offer of legal aid.1Operations monitoring data shared at the Civil Contracts Consultative Group meeting in May 2022: Civil Contracts Consultative Group (CCCG) minutes 18 May 2022, LAA.
The top five reasons for rejection were: the means report was not consistent with the declaration; when the LAA checked the figures, they did not agree with those provided in the means report; the client was self-employed but this was not shown in the means report; and the application showed an undeclared partner or undeclared property.
On merits, the most common reason for rejection was insufficient information. Examples include: incorrect statements of case; lack of court orders, expert reports and statements; no copies of the parties’ position statements; and no evidence of attempts to settle, details of the assets that were the subject matter of the dispute, breakdown of costs, or copies of the pleadings.
However, the LAA doesn’t always get it right first time either and provides ‘fixer’ services to correct its errors quickly.2Civil fixer guidance, LAA.
Application Fixer
Application Fixer can be used to review decisions based on the information submitted originally – if you wish to include additional information, you will need to use the appeal route. In January–March 2022, the LAA granted 58 per cent of applications made through ‘fixer’ and gave advice on what to do in the remaining cases.3See footnote 1.
If you email, it will look at any mistake made by the LAA, for example: an application has been incorrectly rejected/refused; information provided has not been considered in the decision; you have been asked for documents or information that have already been provided; the cost limit requested has not been granted when using delegated functions; or where COVID-19 contingency arrangements have not been followed.
High Cost Family Fixer
This is a similar service for high-cost family cases. The LAA should provide helpful feedback, even if it considers that the ‘fixer’ was not appropriate. Email Examples of suitable cases are where the LAA has: incorrectly rejected or reduced a case plan; not considered the information provided; asked for documents or information already provided; granted an incorrect cost limitation; or CIS cases with complex, lengthy or unresolved case planning issues.
Civil Claim Fix
The LAA receives an average of 4,400 claims a month.4See footnote 1. Civil Claim Fix aims to correct LAA mistakes in relation to bills or claims, for example, if it has rejected a claim or outcome incorrectly, or asked for information already provided or not required in a ‘document request’ on a claim or outcome. This is the longest-established of the ‘fixer’ services and feedback I have received from practitioners suggests it does work. Where the LAA accepts its mistake, it will put your bill to the front of the queue and it will be paid quickly. When emailing Civil Claim Fix (, you need to set out your reasons and include any relevant supporting evidence.
You can reduce the chance of claims being refused or reduced by using the LAA’s guidance:
chapter 10.2 of the Civil finance electronic handbook (version 3.3, 23 September 2022, pages 80–82) for the evidence needed for disbursements;
appendix 7 to the Civil finance electronic handbook (pages 189–192) for template experts’ invoices showing breakdowns;
Remote family hearings: updated ways of working (version 2, 15 April 2020) for guidance on what the LAA can accept in place of an Advocates Attendance Form (still in place at the time of writing and not confined to remote hearings);
chapter 3 of the Civil finance electronic handbook (pages 28–32) for the two-stage test and examples of what would meet the criteria for enhancements; and
chapter 22 of the Civil finance electronic handbook (pages 158–176) for guidance on the information required regarding the statutory charge.