Best Practices -
Invoicing Legal Aid

Three simple rules to make invoicing straightforward:

1. Protect your practice and invoice in good faith.
2. Maximise your income.
3. Maximise your cash flow.

Invoicing in Good Faith

At some point your practice may be subject to an audit. Occasionally, it is unclear whether your work makes you eligible for a specific fixed fee or disbursement.

At Aunoa, we recommend erring on the side of caution.

Consider the following true story:

Clare Barrister recently joined the bar after 14 years as a Prosecutor.
At the sentencing stage she was reassigned on Mr Defendant’s PAL 3 matter.
The name of the client seemed familiar. Clare was uncertain whether she had worked on his matter while with Police. Two hours later she had prepared the file, reviewed the disclosure and procedural history, called the Courts for the CRI, and recorded her time.
She was ready to bill for Preliminary Work.
She then received a call from her former colleagues at the Crown. They were confused - she had worked on his matter after all.
As she could no longer work on the file, she contacted legal aid and informed them that reassignment was necessary, without filing an invoice.

Unfortunately it is occasionally necessary to write off time, even if it was spent productively.

At Aunoa, we recommend doing so wherever you feel any doubt over your eligibility for a fixed fee.

Maximising Income

For many barristers, Legal Aid work is their bread and butter. If you're reading this you probably manage dozens of Criminal Legal Aid matters annually.

At Aunoa we believe the work you do is important, and that you should be adequately compensated for it. Occasionally, certain invoicing pitfalls can reduce the total fee you earn for your time.

That can be summed up by a few straightforward rules:

  • File Amendments to Grants as often as you are eligible; minimise writing off your time. Make sure your Experience Level is up to date.
  • Know the Grants Handbook, know when you can invoice for adjournments, reassignments, and other edge-cases.
  • Combine matters together, where permissible. Containing all of the charges within a single Grant Schedule accurately reflects the complexity of the matter. This can make Amendments to Grant easier.
  • Put your hand up for Opposed Bails when you can.
  • PAL 2-4 Lawyers – If your client is likely to elect trial by jury on a PAL 1 matter, we recommend that you sit tight. Invoice after the decision has been made.

Maximising Cash flow

Invoicing after each hearing can solve the administrative problems we experience as barristers.

Nothing is worse than forgetting to invoice before the six-month time limit expires. Invoicing after each appearance makes that impossible.

It can be tricky to engage in the forensic exercise of figuring out what activities took place, when. This is especially tricky if agents appeared, or if you work in a firm with other Barristers. Invoicing after each appearance makes that straightforward.

You never know when you might need that money. If you have a mortgage, making a down-payment on your principal is going to reduce your ongoing costs. If you're looking forward to a holiday, paying in advance can make things cheaper.

Invoice after every appearance.

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