It was reported in the Law Society Gazette today that only 42% of litgators, and 45% of advocates are currently claiming the fixed fee for ‘considering unused material‘ in eligible cases (0-3 hours). These hard-fought-for fees, which were introduced a year ago (September 2020) were, at the time, described as being amongst the first legal aid fee increases in 25 years.

The ‘unused material’ fees apply to Crown Court indictment cases, with a represented order on /after 17-9-20.  If a practitioner spends more than 3 hours viewing unused material, the first 3 hours is remunerated by way of the fixed fee, and any additional hours are remunerated via the hourly rates claim.

Many acknowledge that legal aid firms have been enduring a rough ride for a number of years now, with all the changes to the system, and that the pandemic has clearly exacerbated their dufficulties further. So for 58% of litigators and 55% of advocates not to have so far claimed these new fees is alarming, and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. The logic behind the reform is that ‘unused material’ stills requires preparation, presentation and read-through even if it does not form part of the case. Therefore practioners should receive fees for this work.

The Gazette article mentioned that in response to feedback from crime firms the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) will be putting on extra workshops (via its training website) and simplifying the process for making claims.

Select Legal Systems Limited (owned by the Access Group), were quick off the mark in September last year, enhancing its LAWFUSION criminal legal aid software modules to embrace the new ‘unused material’ reforms as well as the new ‘Magistrates-to-Crown-Court’ fees – making it easy from the outset, for crime firms to claim both sets of new fees. LAWFUSION’s crime functionality covers comprehensive management of the Litigator Graduated Fees Scheme (LGFS)  and the Advocate Graducated Fees Scheme (AGFS), and also facilitates efficient monthly bulk upload to LAA online.

Cartwright King, one of the UK’s largest providers of Legal Aid for criminal defense, are users of LAWFUSION. If you would like to know how the firm has optimised the software to faciltate its growth, there is a case study video documenting Cartwright King’s LAWFUSION journey here.

To book a LAWFUSION crime software demonstration, or if you would like to see any other area of the system, Select Legal’s telephone lines are open between 9am to 5.30 pm on 01482 567601. Outside of these times there is an online Book-A-Demonstration-Form here.