Guest blog: Improving the way barristers get paid in civil and family cases

11 July 2019

A number of you have contacted the LAA at various times wanting to know how you can contact us in relation to civil and family cases where financial issues have arisen and, for one reason or another, cases have not run as smoothly as they should. 

We have had various discussions since last December with your representatives about what and how we can improve our processes and publicise materials that will assist you, including a list of useful contact details. 

As part of a series of meetings we welcomed Chair of the Bar, Richard Atkins QC, Chair-Elect of the Bar, Amanda Pinto QC, the Bar Council's Adrian Vincent and Scott Baldwin to our office at Jarrow on 11 June 2019. Frances Judd QC, Chair of the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) joined us by telephone. Jane Harbottle (Head of Case Management currently acting CEO), Joanne Bainbridge (Head of Civil Case Management), Antony Evans (Senior Business Delivery Manager), Kat Grainger (Head of Civil Business Improvement) and Antony Leal (Family Lead in the Exceptional and Complex Cases Team). 

We were able to share details about the work that we do, in particular volumes and processing times, and where it is done including the number of people involved as well as providing a tour of the office and demonstrating the scale of our file storage facility. 

Joanne provided an overview of Civil operations, Antony Evans an overview of Civil Finance and Antony Leal an overview of high cost family work. The presentations included how we are doing against key performance indicators and information about our Customer Service Teams and the volume of calls handled. 

A focus for the meeting was on the steps we have already taken to improve our processes particularly in high cost family cases and the ongoing work to improve them and further steps that are in progress. More information is available at www.gov.uk/guidance/civil-high-cost-cases-family  The discussions were very positive and led to a number of specific action points that we agreed to explore further both internally and in conjunction with clerks and the FLBA. 

Amongst the items discussed and on which we are liaising are payments on account, direct access to cases within CCMS, counsel being included in communications where requests for information relate directly to their fees and the availability of training and guidance materials online. All the issues raised are being explored further and all attendees are being kept informed as to progress. 

A further meeting has been arranged for October so that progress on all the matters discussed can be reviewed. The meeting will coincide with some seminars, which will be given by staff from the LAA as part of the commitment to improving knowledge and understanding through better communication, which was recognised as a key factor behind a number of the topics being discussed, not just between the Bar and the LAA but also between counsel and instructing solicitors. 

Antony Leal worked in private practice as an articles clerk and as a Solicitor for 14 years before joining the LAA (in its former guise) where he has worked for the last 18 and the last 6 as the lead in high cost family and Court of Protection cases. Outside of the LAA he is company secretary to a resource centre providing pre-school services and services for the elderly, in particular dementia services.