Choice of assessor for civil legal aid bills set to continue
Following a consultation earlier this year the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced that the current interim arrangements providing a choice between the courts or the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) for assessments of civil bills over £2,500 will continue for the present time.
Law Society of England and Wales head of justice Richard Miller said: “We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure solicitors’ civil legal aid bills are assessed fairly, and that any changes to how this happens is properly consulted on, so we’re extremely pleased the Ministry of Justice has decided to continue to offer practitioners a choice between Court and LAA assessments, which was supported by 85% of our members who responded to our survey earlier in the year.
“The vast majority of legal aid practitioners we surveyed were opposed to the transfer of the assessment of higher value claims from the courts to the LAA and, overwhelmingly, 73% prefer Court assessments for larger legal aid bills. There were widespread concerns that mandatory LAA assessments of larger bills could adversely affect the impartiality and transparency of bill assessments, although some providers chose LAA assessments mainly for being quicker.
“The MoJ’s proposal that current arrangements giving a choice of assessor will continue at least until November 2022 during which time further data will be gathered and evaluated to assess whether the arrangements are sustainable is reasonable. The commitment to no further changes without consultation with the profession is equally welcome.”
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