If you intend to carry out any form of legal aid work:
You must be entered on our Financial Accounting and Management System (FAMS) before you undertake the work.
The firm that employs you must also be entered on FAMS as a legal aid firm.
This allows us to accept your legal aid applications and pay for that work.
You can start this process either by a telephone call or in writing. We will need basic details such as
The firm you are working for (if it already has a legal aid code, this would be helpful).
Branch within the firm that you want a link to, including the branch code and address.
A contact number.
Your status within the organisation – for example assistant or second year trainee.
You can, if you wish, be linked to all branches within a firm but you must specify a default branch (usually the head office).
We will enter your name on FAMS, allocate you a practitioner code and, within three working days, send you a FAMS registration form. You need to complete and sign the mandate and return them to our Receipts and Payments Department together with any other relevant documentation (e.g a copy of your up-to-date practising certificate (both sides if applicable)). We will activate your practitioner code when we receive these and confirm in writing that the code can now be used.
Entry onto the FAMS database does not mean you are registered to carry out legal aid work. You cannot provide legal assistance if your firm is not registered. In criminal and children's legal assistance you must register as a solicitor even if your firm is already registered.
You can have links to any number of firms who are entered on FAMS. However you must ensure that the firms tell our Receipts and Payments Department so that we can issue the FAMS registration forms. It will take three working days to set up a link for you to another firm on FAMS.
Any firm intending to undertake legal aid work must be entered on FAMS before any solicitor employed by the firm can carry out that work. A member of staff within the firm can start this process by a telephone call or in writing. We will need basic details such as:
The name of the firm
Telephone and fax numbers
Trading start date.
We will then:
Enter the firm on to our central database
Provide a firm code number (five numeric digits)
Send the FAMS New firm registration form and ask for the details of all solicitors who need a link to the firm. The mandate must be signed by the senior partner and returned to us with all relevant documentation. This could include a copy of the senior partner’s practising certificate and a VAT certificate (if applicable). Our Receipts and Payment Department will write to the firm telling them we have activated the code and it can now be used. We will send solicitors who need a link to the firm a FAMS registration form and mandate.
You need to tell our Receipts and Payments Department by phone or letter if you are already entered on FAMS with a firm but take up employment with another firm.
Within three working days we will write to you at your new firm, enclosing a registration form and mandate, and outlinine what will happen with current and new applications. We will activate the link to the new firm when you return the signed registration form and mandate. Any links to the former firm will remain open until you tell our Receipts and Payments Department that the links are no longer needed. The link to your former firm will need to remain open until we have received and paid all relevant accounts.
If you are a criminal practitioner, you should note that your move cannot be activated on the Criminal Legal Assistance Register until you have completed and returned this paperwork. It is therefore very important that you tell us as soon as possible about your intended move and its effective date.
We cannot pay VAT until we receive a copy of your certificate if your firm has registered with Customs and Excise for VAT. In these circumstances you should:
Send our Receipts and Payments section a copy as soon as it is issued.
Write to our Accounts Department to ask for any backdated VAT that is needed and enclose copies of all remittances.
We will accept a list of payment references and amounts if you cannot provide remittances. However this will cause delays as we will have to produce duplicate payment remittances before our Accounts Department can deal with the request.
If your firm opens a new branch and intends to submit applications and/or accounts from the branch then its details will need to be added to FAMS. The branch details can be entered onto FAMS by phoning or writing to our Receipts and Payments Department. You need to tell us basic details including:
The name and address of the branch
We will then:
Enter the branch on the central database.
Allocate it a branch code identifier (one alphabetical digit).
sSend the FAMS New firm registration form together with a letter asking which solicitors need a link to the branch.
You should return the signed registration form with a copy of the senior partner’s practising certificate and, if appropriate, a copy of the VAT registration form. We will then write to you when we have activated the code.
There are several points to settle Ii your firm intends to merge with another before contacting us to enter the new firm on FAMS. These include:
What firm code will you use? You may either keep one of the existing firm codes or ask for a new one.
If the new firm is going to keep one of the codes, what do you want us to do with the other firm’s details? Should we delete them from the central database? Will more branches be needed for the new firm?
What is the new firm’s name?
What is the effective start date of the new firm?
Which solicitors will need a link to the new firm and should we delete their link to the old firm?
What is the position with VAT registration (if appropriate)?
The merging firms may also have accounts they have already sent us that are currently waiting to be paid. We will pay these into the bank account of the firm shown on the Account Synopsis Form. The firm should ensure that the correct firm and branch code are recorded on the Account Synopsis Form for future accounts.
Each of the parties concerned must confirm in writing any decisions the partners within each of the former firms make that would affect details we hold.
Within three working days of being told in writing of the merger we will:
Send the firm the appropriate registration form and mandate.
Send individual registration forms to those solicitors who need a link to this firm.
Merging firms should also consider whether the procedures (for civil or criminal) used by each firm will remain the same or whether they will be consolidated into one common version.
We aim to ensure that remittance advices are sent to a firm no later than the bank credit date. These are currently Wednesday and Friday. We send the remittance advices to the branch we have paid.
If you need a duplicate remittance please first contact the branch which we paid before getting in touch with us. We can issue duplicates within three working days if the original remittance advice cannot be found. The following information will help speed up the request:
The bank credit date.
The total value of the payment.
The payment reference (quoted on the bank statement).
Rarely your firm may receive payment of an account in error. If this happens, please return the payment to us, and quote the legal aid reference number that the payment was made under or provide a copy of the payment remittance advice.
Sheriff officers may lodge an arrestment schedule with us relating to you or your firm. In either case, any payments where legal aid was granted before the arrestment was lodged, will be attached. We will continue to withhold payments under this arrestment until either we hold sufficient funds or the arrestment is loosed.
If the arrestment is lodged against an individual, all accounts to any firm where they are the nominated solicitor and which relate to certificates granted before the arrestment was lodged will be caught by the arrestment.
If the arrestment is lodged against a firm, all accounts submitted by that firm, irrespective of the nominated solicitor, that relate to legal aid granted before the arrestment was lodged, will be arrested.
Where the arrestment lodged is for a value less than £500, we will retain an additional 100% of the value to be caught.
Where the arrestment lodged is between £500 and £1,000, we will retain an additional 50%.
Where the arrestment lodged is for a value greater than £1,000, we will retain an additional 25%.
If funds held against an arrestment exceed £5,000, we will transfer these funds to a special deposit account where interest is accrued. This interest will be released once the arrestment is loosed.
In all cases, when sufficient funds have been caught, we will send the firm a cheque for the balance held, where applicable, and all future payments will be made to the nominated bank account in the usual manner. Once the arrestment is loosed, if the arrestor has not made a claim on the additional funds, these will be released by cheque and sent to the firm.
We will not take any action on behalf of either party unless we receive an appropriately signed written request. No funds will be released to the arrestors without authorisation from the solicitor or firm arrested.
You should ensure that all completed accounts, where the individual concerned is the nominated solicitor, have been sent to us before asking us to remove a link.
We will apply an end-date to the appropriate record when we receive such a request. You should write to our Receipts and Payments Department if the practitioner or firm number has to be restored to on FAMS.
Applying an end-date effectively deletes the details from our database. It will restrict us sending correspondence, stop us registering any applications and either stop or delay us making any payments to the firm.