Key messages for legal suppliers - December 2019

Date published: 31 December 2019

The LSA has issued the key messages for suppliers for December 2019.

Graphic for legal services agency northern ireland key messages

LSA Messaging Backlog

Significant progress has been made dealing with outstanding messages on LAMS. We remind practitioners not to send further ‘chasing’ messages to LSA during at this time. Business processes have also been reviewed and revised to ensure further backlogs do not arise and matters are dealt with on a more timely basis. 

Financial Eligibility Declarations

Practitioner should ensure that they upload the appropriate ‘Applicant Declaration’ in respect of financial eligibility. Frequently either no Applicant Declaration or the wrong Applicant Declaration is provided. This delays the processing of the application.

Applicant Declarations can be found under the LAMS applicant declaration page and are broken down as follows:

Counsel Travel Claims in Uncertified Cases

If counsel is acting in a case which is not certified for counsel, their instructing solicitor should submit their claim, making clear which work counsel undertook and which work they undertook. In such circumstances counsel can only claim the rates which would be payable if the solicitor undertook all work in the case. Counsel should note that if their claim involves travel, counsel should claim the rate applicable to counsel as this reflects the costs incurred, not the solicitor travel rates.

Change of Financial Circumstances

If your client has undergone financial assessment and their circumstances change you need to upload a Change of Circumstances request and attach all new documentation which proves the change in circumstances.  Further, if you wish to query the existing assessment same should be made under a Change of Circumstances request.

Legally Linking

Practitioners should ensure, when legally linking cases, that the linkage is appropriate.  Representation Lower Courts Certificates cannot be legally linked to subsequent applications in the Representation Higher Courts. Failure to comply with this advice will result in delay in dealing with applications.

Children Order applications guidance

Further guidance on Children Order applications is currently being developed and will be available to practitioners in the coming weeks.

Recording of court attendance on ICOS

Practitioners are asked to ensure their attendance is announced in court or the court clerk is alerted to their attendance at proceedings so their presence to be accurately recorded on ICOS.  This relates to all court appearances in all court tiers, both criminal and civil.  The Agency makes use of ICOS to confirm attendance and PPE.  Where there is a discrepancy between ICOS and the request for payment, a query will be raised asking the practitioner to confirm the accuracy of the dates and length of hearing claimed.  Once clarification has been received and any necessary amendments made to the request for payment, the Agency will assess the request and pay as appropriate.

Pre Action correspondence

Paragraph 6 of circular 21/19 advised practitioners that if they wished to submit pre action correspondence to the Agency, they should serve the correspondence on the Departmental Solicitors Office. Practitioners are reminded of this advice as a number of PAPLs have been submitted as part of LAMS correspondence. PAPLs must not be submitted via LAMS.

Barristers attached to cases on LAMS

The number of requests to ‘attach barrister’ remains significantly lower than expected.  Barristers are reminded of the need to be attached to cases as per LSA Circular 11/19. Solicitors are reminded that they should attach barristers to all new cases where a level of representation (counsel) has been granted on LAMS and that they can attach barristers to all criminal cases, including migrated cases, where counsel has been granted by the court.

Advice and Assistance - Request for payment assessment

Practitioners will be aware of a previous scheme referred to as the GF scheme used to speed up payment of paper based claims within the Advice and Assistance remit.  Under the GF scheme the Agency paid a set fee depending on the type of work carried out. With the implementation of LAMS, the Agency has revised the operation of the GF scheme.  As a result of the review, it is more efficient for future claims to be assessed on a time and line basis even though this will likely result in a slight increase to the overall value paid from the legal aid fund, the remuneration is more reflective of work undertaken by the practitioner.  To ensure the Agency continues to work as efficiently as possible, the use of the GF scheme will stop with immediate effect and payment will be based on the assessment of the information provided.


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