Always reliable and accurate, with a good turnaround speed.
Paul Bunting, Partner, Aspinall Wright Solicitors
David joined John M Hayes in 2001 as a Trainee and and worked his way up through the company to the role of Director and Head of Legal Aid. David is a key note speaker on legal aid; he is widely known for his encyclopaedic knowledge on legal aid as well as his status as possibly the tallest Costs Draftsman in England. He is based in Newcastle upon Tyne Office from where, last week, he answered our questions.
When I started as a trainee in 2001, legal aid was the first area of work I was introduced to. I think it is pretty much impossible to work on legal aid files and not develop an appreciation of how important legal aid is and the impact that it can have on people’s lives.
There have been many changes in recent years and unfortunately lots of them have had a negative impact on access to justice either directly or indirectly. LASPO was of course the most significant change and, as expected, has had an enormous effect. Additionally, we have seen changes that really have just made life increasingly difficult for Legal Aid Practitioners, including reductions to hourly rates and fees, administrative burdens and more recently the implementation of CCMS.
As costs draftsmen, we are used to the fact that there will be changes to fee schemes and costs guidance on a regular basis; however it can be tough for legal aid practitioners to keep on top of this at the same time as conducting their cases. It’s my belief that it is part of our role to ensure that solicitors are aware of the detail that can impact on their costs recovery. Many are points that need to be considered when running a legal aid file rather than at the time of billing, and, over recent years, we have held regular regional seminars highlighting key points for maximising legal aid costs and avoiding rejections. It was a natural progression from this to have something that could be fitted in and around busy working schedules at times that suited the fee earner. We therefore created our online training course and have structured this so it is broken down into various timed sections that can be accessed at any time.
Yes it is suitable for all types of licenced (certificated) work. The training is broken down into various different sessions, and although there are some that are specific to certain types of work (e.g. a session on Family Fixed Fees) the majority are relevant to all areas. You can see a breakdown of what is covered at http://johnmhayes.teachable.com/courses/gettingitright
Yes I do try to use my twitter account to keep people up to date with latest legal aid developments in addition to providing some useful costs tips, however I do indeed have to admit there is the occasional post about the frustrations of being a Middlesbrough FC supporter or my thoughts on some instrumental Icelandic post rock!
My twitter page can be found here https://twitter.com/davidsmithjmhp
I have to admit I really fell into this line of work. The Newcastle office was opening at a time when I was looking for a graduate role and I had no real idea what type of career I was looking for. I had studied Maths at University and the advert stated that numeracy and attention to detail were key skills so I thought I would apply! 15 years later and I can say that what has kept me at John M Hayes has been the support that I have received from the company and the great opportunities I have been given to develop a rewarding career.
Some people claim that I am the tallest Law Costs Draftsman; however this has never been tested and in all likelihood never will… so I suppose I can’t really use that! So the most unexpected fact would probably have to be that I am in a band (used in the loosest sense of the word) that has sold music in Asia, Europe, North and South America…. admittedly not very many copies but it makes it sound more impressive by listing continents!
Always try to extend your knowledge, learn new skills and adapt. The market has changed so much since I have been working in costs and will continue to do so and you need to be able to move with it.
My next challenge is becoming a parent as my wife and I are expecting our first child on 18th December. So a nice quiet Christmas awaits!
David Smith answered questions prepared by Kate Oliver. Contact David Smith at Newcastle Office on 0191 261 4666 or e-mail direct on firstname.lastname@example.org