Are you missing out on discretionary enhancements?
In Legal Aid claims / bills discretionary enhancements can be applied to work that is being claimed at hourly rates (i.e. work that is not subject to a fixed fee or has escaped a fixed fee) if it meets the threshold for enhancement as set out below.
First Stage – The Threshold Test
The assessor must be satisfied that at least one of the thresholds has been met to determine whether any enhancement should be allowed;
a) the work was done with exceptional competence, skill or expertise;
b) the work was done with exceptional speed; or
c) the case involved exceptional circumstances or complexity.
Second Stage - The criteria to which the relevant authority shall have regard;
These criteria are used to determine the percentage of enhancement claimed, and which aspect(s) of work the enhancement can be claimed on:
a) the degree of responsibility accepted by the legal advisor;
b) the care, speed and economy with which the case was prepared; and
c) the novelty, weight and complexity of the case.
Costs Officers and the LAA are likely to allow higher levels of enhancement if more than one of the above factors are present in a case and these factors are clearly detailed. Enhancements can be applied to a whole case, to aspects of work or to individual items. The LAA are however, more often than not, unwilling to allow any enhancements on routine items of correspondence, travel or waiting. An exception to this is where enhancement is awarded owing to speed.
A maximum of 100% can be claimed in cases heard by High Court Judges, the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court and 50% for all other cases. The guidance for the enhancement of claims is detailed in Section 6 of the Specification (and Section 12 of the Costs Assessment Guidance) and sets out a two stage test.
Our draftsmen are able to combine their experience of local Court and LAA assessments to help determine which cases would qualify for enhancement and the level to be claimed. Should you need any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.
David Smith, Head of Legal Aid, and Deputy to the Chief Executive, is based in our Newcastle office. He is responsible for ensuring our draftsmen are up to date with all legal aid developments and also conducts regular training seminars for solicitors.