Our accounts data shows that a substantial number of firms have not submitted any interim fees since April despite having active cases which could attract an interim payment now.
We are launching a small research project with solicitors undertaking civil or solemn legal aid to explore the reasons for this, and to find out if there are any barriers to using the Covid-19 interim fee arrangements.
This research will help us consider if there is more we can do to assist solicitors to access work in progress payments now.
The figures show that 64% of active solemn criminal legal aid firms and 47% of active civil legal aid firms have made no interim fee claims on either the civil legal aid or solemn schemes.
We are interested in speaking to solicitors who have not used the interim fee arrangements in place under Covid-19, or who have used them infrequently.
A member of SLAB’s research team will contact solicitors and ask them to take part in a short telephone interview.
The interview is expected to take around 10 minutes on average. We will start contacting solicitors during the week commencing Monday 9 November.
For more information on the research, including to express interest in taking part, please email the research team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have a dedicated email (email@example.com) which you can use to let us know about the positive or negative impacts of the interim fee measures we have taken since the start of lockdown.
We and the Scottish Government acted on our early commitment to improve the interim fee arrangements across all legal aid types.
Although businesses continues to operate and clients continue to receive advice, we recognise that some case types may not have been able to conclude within the same timescales as previously.
The improvements to the interim fee arrangement were designed to help businesses through a period of reduced court activity.
Last year we had 733 active legal aid firms. Since April, 303 firms have used the interim fee arrangements available in civil legal aid and/or solemn legal aid.
We have paid out £3.6 million ex VAT in interim fees in those schemes so far.
The civil scheme has been used more extensively and frequently than the solemn criminal legal aid scheme which has paid £1.2 million in fees.