Diary of a Legal Aid Lawyer | CCFS family case plans – what do I need to know?
If you’re starting out in legal aid and are faced with preparing a CCFS case plan, my initial advice is, don’t panic! With a little practice, these case plans will be relatively easy to prepare. To start you off, I’ve created some tips that will help you maximise costs recovery.
Single Counsel CCFS cases
- Cases should be registered when you believe the overall costs in the case will exceed £25,000. This figure should include your profit costs, disbursements, and counsel fees.
- On the LAA website, you’ll find a registration template which contains all of the information the LAA need to consider registering the case. There are also draft case plans, both blank and completed, which you’ll find helpful.
- Under this model you receive a fixed fee per hearing day or advocates meeting. The fee varies depending on how many ‘main hearing’ days (finding of fact and final hearing days) you have in the case; the level of Court; and whether you or counsel do the hearing/meeting.
- As soon as you have confirmation of registration, you can upload the signed contract and increase your costs limit to £32,500.
- If your costs at CCFS rates are going to exceed £32,500 you can submit an interim case plan setting out the chronology of dates, experts, and counsel fees. Once agreed by the LAA, you can submit a contract (if you haven’t already) and increase your costs limit to the agreed figure in the plan. When it’s appropriate, you can do a POA for 100% of your events to date. It is sometimes worth waiting if you have lots of hearing days coming up so you can claim them!
- You can only claim one fee per day, so ensure advocates meetings and hearings are on different days.
- You must have advocate meetings ordered in advance as you will not be able to claim a fee if they haven’t been.
- It’s worth undertaking the hearing or advocates meeting yourself, as you can get as much as £1,157 per day depending on the CCFS model you choose.
- If counsel undertakes the hearing or meeting, the fees will be lower. However, you still get the fee regardless of whether you attend with counsel or not. Therefore, think carefully about whether you really need to sit behind, as you get the same fee regardless.
- If the main hearing length over runs or under runs, ensure you either have an Order reflecting that, or a confirmation email from the Judge. In some circumstances, depending on when the length changed, it is possible to claim under runs and over run fees, but you will need evidence supporting the claim.
- Signed Counsel Acceptance Forms are required for all counsel who are claiming events, and you will need signed back sheets for all conferences and advocates meetings that counsel attends.
2 Counsel CCFS case
The rules for 2 counsel cases slightly differ to 1 counsel cases. You’ll need to be aware of the following:
- Once you register your case as high cost, you can upload a signed contract and increase your costs limit to £60,000. If your costs are likely to exceed £60,000, you can upload an interim plan for agreement and, once agreed, increase your limit to the new figure.
- The fee is higher if you or someone from your firm sit behind counsel at hearings, which is an extra £207 per day.
- The number of advocates meetings you can claim for 2 counsel cases is limited. You can claim two for each counsel and solicitor up to a finding of fact (if there is one) and then two for each counsel and solicitor up to the final hearing.
Written by Polly Hall, Head of Legal Aid Costing