Fat Cat Update

I came across this as I was leaving the UK on Friday and didn’t have chance to do anything but a quick tweet.

Essentially the people at “Full Fact” are running down a suggestion by Lord Faulks, in June, that social welfare lawyers can earn £200 an hour. It is a bit more specific than the usual, generic “fat cat legal aid lawyer” nonsense we normally quickly dismiss – but equally rubbish.

What interested me in the more recent article is the attempt by the MoJ to justify the minister’s claim:

First, the MoJ argued that if a set fee is around £200—as in a case concerning debt, which is £180—and it only takes an hour to complete, the lawyer is effectively getting £200 an hour.

We fully understand the point and how one might wish to try and better manage the swings and roundabouts available in standard fee schemes. But this is not really the point.  What the MoJ did not point out, and one can fully forgive the authors for not knowing, is 2013 Civil Contract Key Performance Indicator (KPI) 3A (Specification 2.61 & 2).

Now I am sure that the MoJ spokesperson was not enticing lawyers into committing a breach of contract, however that’s pretty much what trying to earn “nearly £200 an hour” for debt casework amounts to.

Essentially KPI 3A works like this;

  • You must time record and report notional costs at £43.88 an hour
  • If, on average, your notional claims for the £180 fee are less than £144 (permitted 20% margin) you are in breach of the KPI
  • If you get that spot on at an acceptable 19% margin you effectively increase the hourly rate to £54.85 i.e. the highest contractually permitted rate is less than a third that suggested by the minister.

Was the MoJ spokesperson being deliberately disingenuous or did s/he simply not know contract?

About Author: SP

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