The LSA has issued the key messages for suppliers for October & November 2019.
- Circular 21/19 indicated that in respect of Representation (Lower Courts), practitioners should submit urgent applications on LAMS but if this is not possible because a case is before the court within the next 2 working days, the applications should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. The circular indicated that when doing so practitioners should provide the same documentation as they did under the “case critical” arrangements.
- Circular LSA 25/19 – Representation Higher – Emergency Pilot Process issued on 31 December 2019 advising that with effect from 2 January 2020 for a period of 3 months, practitioners in Representation Higher Courts who cannot submit an emergency application on LAMS because the case is before the court the same day or the next day, can submit an application by email to a dedicated address, which is set out in the circular. Practitioners using this facility must follow the instructions in circular LSA 25/19 and should ensure that requests for counsel are included within their requests.
- The LSA reserves the right to refuse a request through this facility in the absence of a good reason as to why an emergency cannot be submitted on LAMS.
- If a practitioner has submitted a case on LAMS which is now urgent, they can use this email facility to escalate that the case has a hearing or review date before the court within the next 5 working days.
- The LSA will review the continued need for this facility at the end of March.
- LSA are pleased to report that bills submitted on paper and received by LSA prior to the introduction of LAMS have been assessed and paid. Practitioners should check that all paper based claims submitted to LSA on or before 5 June 2019 have been processed.
- Should you identify paper bills that you consider are outstanding please follow the steps below to draw them to LSA’s attention as soon as possible:
- If you identify a claim that you submitted but it has not been paid, please check in LAMS to see if LSA has raised a query against your claim and respond to the query. This will enable LSA to complete the assessment process.
- If you identify a claim submitted but not paid, and it is not under query, please send a request message on LAMS and upload a copy of the paper bill submitted. Please entitle your message ‘Outstanding Paper Claim’.
- If you are a barrister and have identified a paper claim that has not been assessed/paid and was submitted to LSA on or before 5 June 2019 via your instructing solicitor, please check with solicitor before contacting LSA.
- If you identify a paper bill that you submitted on or before 5 June 2019 but it has not been assessed/paid and the case is not available on LAMS you can raise the issue with LSA by sending an email attaching a copy of your original (paper) payment request. A dedicated email box email@example.com has been established for this purpose and will remain open until 31 January 2020.
Recoupment of interim payments
A small number of solicitor firms received letters in May 2019 in relation to the potential recoupment of interim payments made on cases which had been inactive for significant periods of time. It was assumed the cases had been concluded with no further claim on the fund. The LSA will write out to firms indicating that the recoupments will be processed in February unless the solicitor has already notified LSA that a recoupment would be inappropriate as the case has not concluded.
Children order claims 5% uplift
A query has been raised about how a practitioner should apply on LAMS for their 5% uplift as a member of the Children’s Order panel.The issue arises when a solicitor applies the 5% uplift to the overall profit costs where Advice and Assistance expenses are included within a Rep Lower report on case.
In such circumstances practitioners should:
- if they wish to claim the Advice and Assistance expenses under the Rep Lower report on case - claim the AA expenses but do not apply the 5% uplift in the adjustment field for the overall profit costs, instead the solicitor should apply the 5% uplift to each individual Rep Lower fee line; or
- if they wish to claim the Advice and Assistance expenses for the Rep Lower case – only claim the Rep Lower expenses in the report on case and apply the 5% uplift in the adjustment field for the overall profit costs and then submit a further payment request for an additional fee for the AA expenses.
Domestic violence waiver
Practitioners are reminded of the waiver of financial eligibility limits in proceedings relating to domestic violence or forced marriage which can be found at Regulation 10 of the Civil Legal Services (Financial) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015.
Advice and Assistance
LAMS is currently overriding the date of initial advice / date of first attendance under PACE for Advice and Assistance application request with the date in which the adjudication of the application occurs.
If you receive an error stating ‘The date of the expense must be on or after the date of grant of legal aid or the date of initial advice’ you should contact the LAMS Support Team on 02890 408888 for assistance.
Managing ‘messages’ and ‘queries’
- LSA will send a message to practitioners to resolve minor points of clarification. They will use the query function for all other issues.
- Solicitors can raise messages against a Case or against a Request. A barrister can raise a message against a Request only.
- Practitioners are reminded that when LSA use the ‘query’ function the application or request is returned to them to respond to the query. The status in LAMS changes to ‘Queried’ and no further action will be taken by the LSA until the query is answered.
- Practitioners will receive an email notification alerting them that a query is waiting attention in their LAMS account. This message is for information only. Do not respond to the message.
- When the Practitioner deals with the query they must also resubmit the application or request. The status in LAMS changes to ‘Resubmitted’.
- For further Guidance on Messaging and Queries please refer to pages 198 and 213 of the LAMS guidance manual
- Instructional Videos are also available to view for messaging and for queries
- Please view the short presentation on messaging which may improve your understanding of the messages and query functionality.
- Practitioners should not use the messaging functionality on LAMS to lodge JR proceedings, FOI requests and or complaints.
- JR proceedings including PAPLs should be served on the Departmental Solicitors Office as per LSA Circular 21/19 para 6.
- FOI requests should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Complaints to email@example.com
- Practitioners may use firstname.lastname@example.org to raise general queries and issues not relating to specific cases. Practitioners should use the message functionality on LAMS to raise Case specific enquiries. Consequently, enquiries relating to individual cases sent to the email@example.com will not be responded to.
In response to requests via the Stakeholder Forum we have changed the wording of the message sent to all LAMS users about the availability of the system. The revised message clarifies that the message is a ‘broadcast’ sent to all users. Broadcast messages are used to alert users to important information about system availability or systemic issues impacting the system. The onus is on the practitioners to log in and read their messages.
The revised message will read:
Subject: Attention LAMS System Message
A broadcast message has been sent to you. Please log into LAMS to read your message.
System users are also reminded that they can sign-up to receive text messages relating to the access and availability of LAMS see LSA Circular 19/19 for solicitors and staff or Circular 18/19 for barristers.
LAMS annual renewal
Practitioners are asked to note that in June there will be a process to renew the LAMS accounts. This will not be an arduous process. Further details will issue in due course.
Practitioners’ attention is urgently re-drawn to the document entitled Terms and Conditions of using LAMS.
- Users must NOT share or disclose their login details for LAMS LAMS to ANYONE (this includes the LSA Support Team).
- For forgotten nidirect login details (email address, password, memorable word) you should contact 0300 200 7868.
- To regenerate your LAMS passwords, users must login to LAMS and select the ‘I’ve forgotten my password’ link. This will send a new PIN to the registered email address.
- Users must change their login details whenever there is any indication of possible login compromise.
- You must keep your login details for LAMS Services secure. You will be deemed to be responsible for all activity and information submitted to the Services carried out under your username and password.
Access to LAMS
All administrative and non-legally qualified staff within a business who need to access and input to LAMS must create an ‘other employee account’.
They must create a nidirect account before they create their LAMS account, there is a different procedure for these staff in that they do not need to produce documents and be verified. Further information on who to create a nidirect and LAMS account can be found on page 17 the Supplier Manual.
Medical notes and records
Practitioners are reminded that they must only provide or upload relevant personal data that will assist the Agency’s determination under the statutory tests. This includes uploading only the relevant medical notes and records relating to the subject matter of the application.
Relevant inter-party correspondence
Practitioners are reminded to provide and upload relevant inter-party correspondence within their application. This can include the response of any other party, confirmation if liability has been accepted and details of any settlement offers, pre-action protocol letters and any responses.
LSA messaging backlog
LSA recognise that there are a number of case messages that have been sent to us, that have not yet received a response An action plan has been put in place across all business areas to address this backlog and we anticipate that all outstanding messages will be responded to by the end of January 2020. We are working through cases in chronological order. Therefore we would ask that practitioners do not send further ‘chasing’ messages to LSA during this period. 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.
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