LSANI - Key messages for legal suppliers - September 2020

Date published: 15 October 2020

The LSA has issued the key messages for legal aid suppliers for September 2020.

Graphic for legal services agency northern ireland key messages

Case closure in the Legal Aid Management System (LAMS)

Case closure commenced on 8 August 2020 and has been running daily thereafter for all eligible cases. Practitioners are reminded as per LSA Circular 11/2020 that the next significant change to the auto closure of cases in LAMS took place on 1 October 2020.

Upon closure of a case a system generated email notification will be sent to all suppliers attached to the case and they will no longer be able to submit any further requests through LAMS. If necessary however, they can still submit a message against the case or a request on LAMS asking that the case is re-opened. Under such circumstances, the reasons for re-opening the case will be required and should be detailed in the message request. The re-opening of the case will be considered in line with LSA’s published late claims policy.


Amendment requests

LSA Circular 14/2020 provided details on a number of functionality changes to LAMS. One of these changes related to the introduction of new specific secondary types for amendment requests, the introduction of these new secondary types was to facilitate easy identification, filtering and processing of amendment requests.

When submitting an amendment request practitioners are asked to ensure that they select the correct secondary type. Incorrect amendment requests will be withdrawn and the narrative in the withdrawal will state that it is an incorrect request type. A new request will have to be submitted. Failure to select the correct secondary type delays the processing of the request.


Requests for additional information in support of audit queries

Practitioners will on occasion received requests for additional information relating to cases which have already been completed and paid. These queries flow from the continued efforts to reduce the levels of fraud and error attributed to the Legal Aid fund. When these queries go unanswered, the value of any payments made relating to the query are classed as an error and negatively impact on the volume and value of error reported by NISRA.

There are currently 64 such queries awaiting a response. The Agency will be contacting practitioners again to follow up on these to allow the report for the financial year 2019-2020 to be closed off with as accurate figure as possible.

These queries will continue to be raised as case audits request additional information. Practitioners can help avoid such queries by ensuring all information is supplied when submitting requests to the Agency. The Circular LSA 18-2020 - accuracy of legal aid payments provides background information on the Agency’s efforts to reduce the level of fraud and error attributed to the Legal Aid fund.


Adding counsel to a case

Practitioners are reminded that they will not be able to add counsel to any civil cases which have been certified for counsel pre 14 June 2019. Practitioners should refer to LSA Circulars 08/19 and 11/19 and if these do not assist then they should email

Suppliers should not submit an Amendment/Authority for Level of Representation onto LAMS to seek to add counsel to a case where an authority for counsel has already been granted.

In ALL criminal cases which have been certified for counsel, irrespective of the date criminal legal aid was granted, solicitors can and should attach the barrister(s) instructed in that case.

If, when trying to attach the barrister, you get the warning message which follows you should check the type of certificate in the “case overview” screen.


LAMS warning screen for add barrister


If it displays “solicitor only” you will need to contact the court office and ask them to amend the ICOS record. Once they have confirmed that the record has been updated you should wait a few days, check that the LAMS case has been updated and then attach the barrister.


Acceptance of letters of offer

As staff continue to work rotationally and remotely, all letters of offer acceptance forms should be emailed to to ensure they are received and actioned as soon as possible. Please do not upload the document to LAMS as an amendment request or email individual members of staff.


Operational performance

The Agency is now publishing an operational performance dashboard report on the LSANI website. This report details operational performance for the previous month and can be found within the ‘useful information for legal aid suppliers’ area. The dashboard reports will be uploaded to our website on a monthly basis at the beginning of each month.


Statutory time limits (late Claims)

The provision of statutory time limits for submitting a request for payment has been a feature of the various remuneration orders for a considerable period of time although they were previously not enforced by the Agency across all levels of service. The efforts to reduce fraud and error have highlighted this anomaly and not applying the relevant provisions is contributing to the error rate as reported in the annual financial returns. The Agency are now moving to apply these provisions with a commencement date of 5 October 2020. LSA circular 16/2020 provides details on the policy and the statutory time limits.


Fees adjustment following an audit and compliance review

The Agency recently published its policy on how instances of over and under payment will be treated when they are identified through audit and compliance reviews.

Practitioners will wish to note that where the Agency has made an underpayment, the additional payment will be made against the relevant case.  Where an overpayment of less than £1000 is identified, this will be recouped and the practitioner will be messaged to inform them of this. Where an overpayment of more than £1000 has occurred the practitioner will be written to with the specifics of the case. The practitioner will have 21 days to respond to the letter. Where recoupment can proceed immediately, this should be indicated by return. Where the value of overpayment would cause financial hardship if it was recouped in one payment, the practitioner can apply to have the equal recoupments spread over a period of time and normally for not longer than over 12 months. The recoupment plan must be agreed by the Agency and a formal letter setting out the agreed plan will be sent prior to the first recoupment.


Reasons for rejection of payment

The Agency continues to work towards reducing the volume of requests for payment that need to be returned seeking additional information or where they are materially incorrect.

A snapshot of the common causes of rejected payment requests for August 2020 are highlighted as follows:

LSANI ring chart showing the outcome of all completed LAMS payment requests in August 2020 broken down by determined and rejected figures as percentages of the 5474 total
• Note: Of the 321 rejected payment requests in August 2020, 116 were rejected under the COVID-19 IPS.

Reasons for rejection of payment requests – August 2020


Disbursement not vouched


Paid/claimed under another certificate


Incorrect fee claimed


Contemporaneous record - Nil claim


Incorrect expense code used


No authority


Supplier did not respond to message(s)



Practitioners are encouraged to confirm the details for each request for payment prior to submission. Where the Agency needs to message or query a practitioner seeking additional information the time taken to fully assess and authorise payment is unnecessarily lengthened.


Guidance notes on submitting a payment request can be found in the LAMS supplier manual section 23.


System availability

Practitioners are reminded that LSA have a LAMS Short Messaging Service (SMS). This service was established to provide external users of LAMS with an additional communication channel to receive time critical messages relating to system access and availability.

The SMS is separate from LAMS which means that the Agency will be able to send messages to LAMS users regardless of the operational status of LAMS.

For further details on how to sign up to the SMS, see LSA Circular 19/19 for solicitors and staff or Circular 18/19 for barristers.


Inappropriate characters in LAMS

Further to February’s key messages where details were provided on the characters accepted by LAMS. Additional characters have now been added to the LAMS whitelist, the characters are:


á é í ó ú Á É Í Ó Ú


If you enter a character not permitted by the whitelist you will receive an error when they try to submit/save the information.


Refusal of emergency applications

The recent update of LAMS functionality (which was notified to the profession under Circular LSA 15/2020) now means that the profession are notified if an emergency application is granted or refused. In certain matter types, such as first time High Court Bails and in all cases where the applicant is on receipt of a passport benefit, the Agency will administratively refuse the emergency element of the application.

This will allow us to proceed to either grant or refuse on the substantive request and if applicable, a full certificate will issue promptly after the emergency refusal.

If an administrative refusal occurs the Agency will not issue a refusal letter. In all other cases where the emergency request is refused a refusal letter will issue setting out the reason for the refusal.

Practitioners are asked to check the email notification that they receive carefully and to check whether an emergency refusal letter has issued before messaging on the matter.

Searching key messages

Should practitioners need to search key messages to find previous advice in relation to a particular topic, this can be done by accessing the news page on the DoJ website and using the search function available. To limit your search to legal aid, the topic legal aid should be selected as per the screenshot below.

 LSANI website screen shot showing the news page search function

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