The Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) has joined forces with the Bar Council for the first time to issue guidance to barristers on how to claim enhancements on fees paid for legal aid work.
Since 2 December 2013, counsel in self‐employed practice instructed under a legal aid certificate to undertake civil (non‐family) work have been remunerated at the same rates and by the same process as solicitors.
While this is lower than the fees previously paid to barristers, it does allow them to apply for a percentage enhancement on hourly rates for ‘exceptional’ cases.
The guide was formally launched at the Bar Council’s annual remuneration conference earlier this month. It takes barristers and their clerks through the legal requirements to make a claim, and the practicalities of doing so.
Paul Seddon, who chairs the ACL’s legal aid group, said: “When it cut the minimum hourly rate for counsel, the government said there was ‘no reason’ why barristers should not be eligible for enhancements when they act in complex cases in specialised areas of law and add ‘real value’ to the resolution of the case.
“However, counsel and their clerks have no experience of making such claims, and it was causing problems, which is why we offered our assistance.
“The resulting guidance makes clear the circumstances and procedure for making a claim for an enhancement, and should ensure that barristers receive the fees to which they are entitled.”
Bar Council chairman Nicholas Lavender QC said: “The government has made significant changes to legal aid for civil cases, including reductions in fees paid to barristers and changes to the procedures to be followed by barristers when claiming payment for work done.
“This guidance aims to help barristers and their clerks to navigate their way through those procedures. We hope it will help to ensure that barristers receive the fees to which they are entitled.”
ACL chair Sue Nash added: “This guidance demonstrates the value of costs lawyers to all the legal professions, rather than just solicitors. We hope that it will prove only the first of many such collaborations with the Bar Council and others.”