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05 MAR 2007


by Nick Hartwell


In light of Lord Carter's review of legal aid procurement which ended on 13th July 2006, the current Criminal Legal Aid system is set to become redundant for any work carried out under a representation order granted on or after 30th April 2007.

Compared to some previous revisions of the Unified Graduated Fee Scheme which have forced minor rate changes and adaptations, this change is monumental. Not only does it effect the level of funding, but also necessitates the morphing of your current software to cope with the entirely new case management requirements that start from the moment the clerks accept a brief.

For Chambers to run a paper accounting system in this day and age is not really practical. Under Carter it becomes nigh on impossible. Software applications must be ready for Carter no later than 30th April in order that Chambers can capture required information. Having your system ready in time to send the first claim out at the conclusion of a case simply won't work because there is a real chance that the information required to compile the bill won't be available from your system. To illustrate the point, consider how you would capture the necessary information where leading and junior counsel become involved in a case at different times and during the course of which various secondary advocates undertake work?

Given that Chambers will be compiling claims on behalf of their own and other Chambers' barristers, it will be vitally important that accurate records are maintained for HMRC. The ramifications of failure to do so are probably apparent to you.

From a business perspective, it could be argued that those in whom the CPS and defence solicitors have confidence will benefit from the greatest proportion of work. To this end, assuring them that you know your business is paramount. What questions will you be asking after 30th April when you're asked to look after the mention before your sentence in Court 4? LEX will tell you!

Unfortunately, time is not on your side but it is crucial that your clerking team is appraised in advance of the changes becoming effective so that the transition to Carter Case Management is seamless and smooth.

We have a wealth of chambers knowledge and expertise that we offer to you on a consultancy basis, so don't be caught out by Carter! We have absolute confidence in our system. Can you honestly say the same of yours?

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