Tricky

I am deeply conflicted about oral hearings for Legal Aid costs appeals. I think they are absolutely necessary however I have a deep and longstanding dislike of doing them. Their value was hammered home at the end of last year when the first one we have done since 2005 proved successful.

You have a contractual right to request an oral hearing in “exceptional circumstances” particularly where the matters are “of such complexity and/or value”. This is most obviously the case where an extrapolation of the audit result is proposed i.e. the percentage audit rating will be applied to a full years claims. This can represent an existential threat.

Most commonly such requests are either not made or are rejected because, on the face of it, the appeal is limited to a small number of cases. What however if the LAA conceal their intentions and subsequently use the audit finding to impose a significant financial penalty? The real “value” of the appeal has therefore been deliberately hidden and the firm essentially tricked into not exercising its contractual rights.

Time to request an oral hearing, on that basis, on every single ICA appeal.

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