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Prior authorities for civil experts – LSC revises processing system

Prior authorities at codified rate to be refused from 1 October 2012

The Legal Services Commission will refuse all applications sent to its Cardiff office for prior authority sought at the codified rate from 1 October 2012, on the basis that authority is not required, unless the number of hours requested is unusually large. Applications above the codified rate will still be considered in the usual way.

Since the Ministry of Justice introduced codified hourly rates for the payment of experts in 2011 the LSC has received a significant increase in the number of prior authorities from 216 in November 2011 to 2,232 in June 2012.

This increase is the result of the transitional arrangements where the Commission introduced 'part grants' where it was satisfied that the codified rate was appropriate, even if it did not agree with the number of hours requested.

The aim of this arrangement was to confirm that the codified rate was the correct one and to reassure the applicant solicitor what rate would be allowed.

This growth is putting considerable strain on processing prior authorities with turnover time now averaging 10 working days for non-urgent cases.

The Commission says that an increasing proportion of applications are for hourly rates that are within the codified rates. 70-90% of applications in the main categories of family experts are now for experts with hourly rates at the codified rate or below, that is for psychologists and psychiatrists.

The LSC has concluded that the 'part grant' transitional arrangement is no longer required. Solicitors can obtain experts at the codified rate and the LSC will pay those hourly rates. 

The LSC has produced a guidance document to help with completion of CLS APP 8A which can be accessed here.