Introduction to series of articles
As of February 1st 2012, when new contracts started with Family and Family with Housing practitioners, the Legal Services Commission’s mainstream face-to-face civil and crime providers have been operating under the same standard terms, writes Vicky Ling. It is unlikely that many people have had the time and/or motivation to read the contract but it is useful to know what’s in it.
In this series, Vicky Ling considers the impact of the contract from a practical point of view, to help you operate in a way which suits you and your clients, and won’t fall foul of the LSC.
Clause 1: interpretation
As with all contracts, some expressions are given particular meanings. Where this is the case, the words are capitalised, e.g. ‘Business Continuity Plan’ and defined in this section.
Sometimes the LSC’s definitions are different from the way the expressions are used colloquially. For example, the LSC defines ‘Contract Work’ broadly, to encompass any civil or crime work, whereas practitioners often use the same term to refer to Legal Help, Family Help Lower, advice and assistance in Crime, police station and Magistrates’ court work.
If you are unsure about the meaning of an expression used by the LSC, it is a good idea to check the definitions in the contract.
Clause 2: relationship and communication
I think of this as the ‘no shouting clause’. It is a shame that the LSC has felt the need to deal with this formally; but the contract states explicitly that all communication must be conducted in a polite and professional manner and that any breach may be reported to the Relevant Professional Bodies. Again, these are defined widely as any ‘body or organisation which regulates or exercises control over your professional or service activities or such activities of any of your personnel and/or any other body to whose rules you have elected to be subject to’ (sic). A Sanction (which we will consider in a subsequent article) could also be applied.
You must nominate someone to liaise with the LSC, to be known as your Contract Liaison Manager. So, if you have a ‘Franchise Representative’ lurking in your organogram or family tree, it’s time to change their title. Legal Aid anoraks will note that things change so fast in legal aid that the LSC is sometimes caught out in its own documentation. This clause states that the LSC staff member who liaises with you will be known as your ‘Relationship Manager’. Almost before the ink was dry, the LSC restructured and redefined the role as ‘Contract Manager’ – what that says about the nature of the relationships is for you to judge.
Clause 2 requires you to have an operational email address and monitor your emails frequently each Business Day (that is any day except Saturday, Sunday and any bank or public holiday in England and Wales). Practitioners who have been involved in tendering exercises will know that sinking feeling when an email tells them to check the Bravo Solution message board on the portal only too well… .
Practitioners and the LSC share an interest in publicising the fact that noteworthy cases were funded by Legal Aid. So, subject to the client’s consent, you must promptly notify the LSC of such cases and acknowledge legal aid in press releases or other dealings with the media.
- Transforming legal aid survey - 30th September 2013
- PCT: incredible alternatives - 7th June 2013
- What was that we signed? - 28th March 2013
- The Low Commission: ‘no magic solution’ - 15th January 2013
- Legal Services Commission’s Standard Contract 2010 (article 8) - 11th January 2013
- ‘Massively oversubscribed’: legal aid contracts from April 2013 - 4th January 2013
- Legal Services Commission’s Standard Contract 2010 (article 7) - 1st November 2012
- Legal Services Commission’s Standard Contract 2010 (article 6) - 9th October 2012
- Welfare Benefits: in scope or not? - 3rd August 2012
- Legal Services Commission’s Standard Contract 2010 (article 5) - 27th July 2012