What's new for legal aid lawyers

Cut-off date for invoices

17 October 2017- As we approach the end of the year Legal Aid would like to ensure that it processes all provider invoices as seamlessly as possible. Please ensure that you submit all invoices as early as possible to avoid disappointment prior to the Christmas break.

Friday 8th December will be the cut-off date for payment of invoices prior to the holiday season. Invoices received after this date, may be processed and paid, but we will not be able to guarantee this.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Legal aid payments to firms

17 October 2017- Please note that this Friday, we will be publishing the Legal Aid payments made to firms for the period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017. This document contains  a list of the payments made to firms for legal services provided by approved providers under the legal aid schemes, and will be made available for download.

New email addresses

3 October 2017- Please note the email addresses wellington.legalaid@justice.govt.nz and auckland.legalaid@justice.govt.nz are no longer being monitored and will be closing shortly.

To ensure your email is actioned please send your email to the applicable address below:

Auckland

AKLCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz

AKLFamilylegalaid@justice.govt.nz

AKLCivillegalaid@justice.govt.nz

Wellington

WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz

WGNFamilylegalaid@justice.govt.nz

WGNCivillegalaid@justice.govt.nz

 In the email subject headings:

  • please let us know what it relates to - eg Urgent/Opposed bail/Reassignment
  • include the legal aid number if known.

For applications:

  • include the date of hearing and all CRN numbers where applicable
  • must include the applicant’s and, if applicable, partner’s income details
  • must include whether the applicant has control of a trust and/or interest in property (please include property address and market value).

Sentencing fixed fee - Criminal Fixed Fee Schedules 3 July 2017 (D, E and F)

28 September 2017 - The schedules D, E and F sentencing fixed fee activity name has been amended to remove the condition of “if sentencing indication not accepted” to be consistent with the fees available under the 4 July 2016 schedules.

The PDF version of invoice form 24C has been amended on the PDF legal aid forms (external link) page. The electronic Word template form will be amended in the next round of form updates.

Wellington legal aid office number

26 September 2017- Following recent changes to our Legal Aid offices the contact number for the Wellington Legal Aid Services office has changed, and the old number (04 472 9040) is no longer active.

 To call the Wellington Legal Aid Services office, use 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).

 The contact legal aid (external link) page of our website has been updated to reflect this change.

Time frame for returning security authorisation letter clarified

26 September 2017 - The time frame advised for returning authorisation letters has been varied between some of the legal aid letters.

The legal aid letters have now been updated to clarify that the time frame for returning letters authorising a charge be registered over property is 15 working days. This is consistent with the time frame stated under s30(1)(b) of the Legal Services Act 2011.

Consultation on new family and civil legal aid form

The Legal Services Commissioner is seeking feedback on a proposed new family and civil legal aid application form. 

Currently, there are five different application and supplementary forms for family and civil legal aid, of varying lengths, that customers and providers are asked to fill in. The Legal Services Commissioner is proposing to combine these forms into one. 

The new form will replace the following:

  • civil general application – form 5
  • family general application – form 6
  • mental health proceedings application – form 7
  • statement of financial position – form 17
  • trust form.

Legal Services Commissioner Bryre Patchell says the current forms are overly complex and ask for unnecessary information.

‘I’m proposing one simplified form that’s designed to be easier for our customers to use and enable faster processing by the Ministry of Justice,’ says Mr Patchell. ‘I’m seeking feedback to ensure the proposed form is fit for purpose.’

To view the form and have your say, go to Consultation on new family and civil legal aid form (external link)

Signature requirements

Legal Aid Services can accept invoices and ATGs via email, post or fax, without the lead provider’s name in the signature box or a physical signature. However, the lead provider's name must appear in the details box. The invoice or amendment must continue to be made by the lead provider to meet the requirements of sections 97(1) and 28(1)(a) of the Legal Services Act 2011.

Also, where a document such as an application, invoice or amendment to grant has been emailed or faxed to a legal aid office, it is not necessary to also send a physical copy. 

Greater use of on-site audits

Following external consultation, the Audit and Monitoring Policy [PDF, 368 KB] and the Audit Terms of Reference [PDF, 701 KB] have been amended to enable greater use of on-site audits of legal aid providers, and to specify the scope and process for on-site audits.

The use of on-site audits will add value to the Ministry’s annual quality and value audit programme. Our external consultation summary report [PDF, 337 KB], details the changes made to the policy and the sector feedback received regarding these changes.

Criminal fixed fee review – reminder about determining which invoice forms to use

The second set of changes to the criminal fixed fee schedules has now been implemented. This is a reminder about how to determine which invoice form to use.

For applications received by Legal Aid Services on or after 3 July 2017, the grant schedule will have “2017” next to the activity headings. In these instances, use invoice forms 23C and 24C for fee schedules A-C and D-F respectively.

This set of changes has not affected the invoice forms for fee schedules G-J.

We encourage you to watch the video presentation (external link) which contains practical advice on the changes that have been made.

Criminal fixed fee review - second set of changes

In September 2014, the Legal Services Commissioner (the Commissioner) undertook a review of the criminal fee schedules. The review concluded in December 2014 and identified a number of areas where improvements to the design and flexibility of the fee schedules could be made, as well as areas where gaps existed.

In October 2015 the Government approved an increase in legal aid funding, staged over financial years 2016, 2017 and 2018, to enable the Commissioner to revise the criminal fee schedules including improvements to their design and flexibility, as well as addressing gaps and issues identified by the review.

In February 2016, the Commissioner announced three new sets of criminal fee schedules, with each set to be released at the start of the new financial year to coincide with each annual government budget cycle.

The first set of revised fee schedules took effect on 4 July last year, for new criminal grants of legal aid where the application was received between 4 July 2016 and 2 July 2017.

The second set applies to all new applications received on or after, Monday, 3 July 2017.

A short YouTube video presentation (external link) has been prepared with practical advice on working with the second set of changes. We encourage you to watch the presentation .

New PDF forms along with an updated installer package can be downloaded from the Ministry of Justice website from 26 June 2017.

Revised delegation of work policy

Legal Aid Services has recently revised its policy on delegation of work.

The revised policy clarifies when specific substantive matters may be temporarily delegated to another lead provider without needing the Legal Services Commissioner's approval. It also authorises an appropriately approved ‘Alternate’ who is named in the lead provider’s contract for services to submit invoices on behalf of the lead provider when the lead provider is unavailable.

You can view the revised policy from page 49 in the legal aid Grants Handbook.

Legal Aid Services Request for Family Court Documents

The Family Law Section (FLS) and Legal Aid Services (LAS) have obtained respective legal opinions on the issue of requests by grants staff to legal aid family providers seeking the supply of copies of family court documents that are held on that provider’s file.  Those opinions have unfortunately reached contrary conclusions as to whether the providers are required to forward such documentation to LAS.

FLS published a bulletin article on 20 December 2016 on this subject that was subsequently withdrawn, as it did not accurately reflect the respective current positions.  After further discussions, FLS are publishing an amended article, but LAS still does not consider that it appropriately sets out the rationale for the position being taken by LAS.

When this issue first arose some years ago, LAS (then the Legal Services Agency) obtained an opinion from Graham Taylor that concluded that the family court publication provisions then in force did not cover communications of information to the Legal Services Agency for the purposes of legal aid.

Following subsequent opinions that were obtained by the Family Law Section that reached a contrary conclusion, LAS obtained an opinion from Francis Cooke QC on 2 March 2015.  In the meantime there had also been statutory amendments that reduced the confidentiality associated with Family Court proceedings.  Mr Cooke QC’s opinion concluded that the relevant statutes “clearly” did not prevent LAS from obtaining information in order to make decisions contemplated by the Legal Services Act.  The provision of such information did not amount to “publishing” that material.  The requested material would already be on the provider’s file and it was not necessary to seek it from the family court.

LAS considers that the FLS view that in every case where a copy of a Family Court document is sought then LAS would be required, instead of making a request of the provider, need to make an application to the Family Court under r. 429 Family Courts Rules 2002 is not considered practical.  There would potentially be many thousands of such requests each year and LAS believes that this process would be administratively burdensome to both LAS and Family Court staff.  Delays in the granting process would also be likely to result.

LAS believes that an appropriate statutory amendment to s. 108 Legal Services Act and related legislation would be the most constructive way to resolve this difference of opinion.  Any such an amendment is however likely to be some while away and in the meantime, LAS will continue to make appropriate requests of legal aid providers when required in reliance upon the guidance received in its opinions.

Duty lawyer invoicing

This is a reminder for duty lawyers; when you are completing your Duty Lawyer Attendance and Invoice form that:

  • your writing on the invoice form is legible
  • the time format is used consistently – either using minutes or hours
  • your invoice is signed
  • your GST number is included, if applicable
  • the name of the court is included on the invoice, if it is not already included on the form
  • only one copy of the invoice is sent – we do not require a physical copy of an invoice if it has previously been emailed or faxed to us.

Correctly completed invoices will assist with the timely processing of your invoice. For more information see the Duty lawyer service – Operational policy.

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