Enhancement - written by Aparajitha Sattur - 01/02/2020

ENHANCEMENTS – USE AND GOOD PRACTICE WITHIN LEGAL AID CLAIMS AND THE IMPORTANCCE OF PANEL AND NON PANEL MEMBERSHIP

 

Written by Aparajitha Sattur, February 2020.

 

The Legal Aid Agency have guidelines in place with regards to requesting enhancements on matters. The request is at the discretion of the Legal Aid provider and guidance is noted in the Legal Aid Agency’s Costs Assessment Guidance Notes. This is important when maximising the costs in a particular case to ensure that the best result possible result is achieved. Some of the metrics as per the LAA’s guidance are noted below.

 

Enhancement

 

Examples of exceptional competence, skill and expertise

 

When your fee earner proves very effective representation for a client who is exceptionally vulnerable, and as a result the matter would be of utmost importance to the client. An exceptional degree of responsibility was accepted by the solicitor acting for that client.

 

The solicitor has demonstrated a usual detailed knowledge relevant to the case and skilfully pursued particularly an effective tactic which resulted in a very satisfactory conclusion to the matter being obtained.

 

This is a reason to provide an enhancement - whether the fee earner is a panel member or a non-panel member, and it should always be remembered that it is the case which can obtain additional enhancement not just the fee earner who had conduct.

 

Remembering: that panel and non-panel membership is relevant to family matters only and a standard 15% is applied.

 

Examples of exceptional care, speed and economy in which matters were dealt

 

When it is submitted that the matter was conducted expeditiously throughout. Often the work needs to be completed with very limited notice - the fee earner could be required to ensure that they were available after the close of business and at weekends in particular in relation to domestic abuse cases and judicial review matters.

 

In this instances it is submitted that the fee earner was able to utilise their skill and expertise to attend to the various aspects of the work required in such a way that it was more economical and achieved a greater saving to the public purse than had the work been undertaken by a notional fee earner who was less experienced and did not specialise in the relevant area in law.

 

Examples of exceptional circumstances and complexities

 

When a matter is of exceptional importance to the client, notwithstanding the client may lack capacity and therefore a decision needs to be made which was in the client’s best interests.

 

For example if the matter concerned a challenge to a detention in hospital by a person with a degenerative condition who was believed to lack capacity to make decisions about his residence and care. –if instructions were received on a urgent basis in order to prepare for a hearing within days – exceptional speed is required not only at the beginning of the proceedings but throughout the matter.

 

In this example the case had exceptionally serious implications for the client because of the risk to his physical health against his wish to return home.

 

Reference is made to the Legal Aid Agency’s own guidance which confirms that maximum enhancement can be payable even if only one of the various enhancement factors has been justified. It is not necessary for all factors to be present for the maximum enhancement to be payable.

 

Whilst we have only touched on enhancement within this brief summary of details required to obtain the relevant enhancement within legally aided matters – it is important to consider enhancement as a factor to increase profitability when claiming matters that have unusual or complex issues.

 

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