A grant of legal aid provides funding for you to carry out the day to day work in a case. However you will need our prior approval if you want to involve counsel or another professional acting as an expert or do work which is unusual or involves unusually large expenditure. This approval process is also known as sanction.

Seeking approval in advance

It is important that you get approval before you instruct any work. This is the best way to help avoid problems when you seek payment.

Seeking retrospective approval

We can sometimes consider granting approval retrospectively for counsel, an expert or unusual work. However you need to have a good explanation for the failure to get our prior approval before instructing the work. For example this could be when urgent work had to be carried out over a weekend when our offices were closed. You should always then seek approval at the first available opportunity if a situation such as this arises.

Please remember that we do not have the power to grant retrospective approval for unusually large expenditure in any circumstances. You always need to get approval for this in advance.

Remember to check your case cost limit

It is worth remembering that you also need to be aware of your case cost limit when you are seeking approvals.

An approval will use up some of your case costs and you may need an increase as a result.


Having approval does not guarantee payment – how the tests for approval and account assessment link together

By granting approval we give an indication to you that we will make payment in the event that you instruct the work anticipated (subject to certain important provisos).

These provisos include that:

  • The work is appropriately, reasonably and actually done.
  • The charges are made in accordance with the basis outlined in the estimate.
  • The amount is within the cost limit.

These are all things that you will need to satisfy us about when we assess the account and its component parts (e.g any report charges from a professional acting as expert) for payment. We will then make payment of the relevant charges if satisfied.

It is important to understand that the expenditure limit intimated with a grant of sanction is not an agreed price or will be the amount paid. The expenditure limit is simply that – a maximum figure beyond which we cannot make payment.

What is actually paid is the amount determined as reasonable with reference to the estimate given and a breakdown of the work undertaken upon completion. The only exception to this is in circumstances where the work has proceeded throughout on a “fixed price” basis.

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