Wednesday, 29 September 2010

VLA fee structure review

Victoria Legal Aid has recently conducted a review into its system of payments to private practitioners in criminal matters. Their 107 page report can be found here. Widespread changes are expected.

The biggest impact to practice in the Magistrates' Court is movement to a whole of job fee structure, replacing grants on an appearance basis. Cases which are classified as taking approximately 6.5 hours of work (called non-complex matters) will attract a flat fee of $754. Complex cases (cases expected to require 13 hours of work) will attract a fee of $1508 (and an additional $116 if the matter proceeds to contest). VLA expect 25% of cases to be categorised as complex cases.

A single fee will relate to the conduct of a whole summary crime case regardless of when and how it resolves. There is no additional fee for any other particular type of hearing.

An implementation date for the new fee structure of 1 January 2011 has been set. There are likely to be further discussions before the final model is implemented. The Law Institute isn't happy about the proposed changes, and after a couple of years of behind-the-scenes negotiation is starting to voice its dissatisfaction publicly (Edit: including here and here).


Anonymous said...

good to see that vla completely ignored every criticism of this proposal that was discussed at the workshops with the profession. nothing like paying lip service to consultation.

does this mean that we can expect more costs applications against prosecution for adjournments?

not to mention the flow on effect to the bar. how many solicitors will be prepared to brief these cases?

This will force junior barristers into higher courts in order to maintain their practice and likely force a great many out of criminal law altogether.

It is bad enough that we have to contend with duty barristers schemes which provide pro bono service to those who would not even qualify for legal aid financially but also to those who should have the benefit of prepared representation. This system might help court flow but it gives a false representation of the demand for services in these areas. VLA should be expanding services not cutting the profession off at the knees.

this proposal is disgraceful

Melbourne Lawyer said...

The bean-counters who dreamed this up clearly have never been in a courtroom and do not listen to anyone who has. It is not really VLA doing this at all even though their in-house staff are the ones who will end up wearing the consequences. The fingerprints of outside productivity consultants are all over this review. The starting assumption seems to have been that lawyers are what makes the court system inefficient and pricing them out of the process will streamline everything.

What will be the next Brumby brainwave? Maybe throw open the doors of public hospitals and encourage patients to help themselves to whatever medication or surgical instruments they want to have a go with. Would that lead to better or worse 'outcomes' I wonder?

Kat said...

Legal Aid are actually cutting their funding totally to cases they consider minor - such as where a client's sentence is likely to be community work. This adds to the list of things that people already can't get aid for and increases the burden on duty solicitors, CLC's and other pro bono schemes.

whodareswins said...

The amounts suggested are a joke but there is merit to not rewarding practitioners who string things out. The fault really lies with VLA who should of tightened up the grants system a long time ago so that practitioners have to properly justify a further grant of aid.

Dr Manhattan said...

You're right, Kat. The withdrawal of existing services is a point I've taken up in a new post, put up on 3rd Oct.

I think some people will be quite surprised when they learn the sorts of matters to be made ineligible for assistance. VLA duty solicitors will not be able to take on contested hearings to cover the shortfall. This will place an increased burden on pro bono services, and leave some accused unrepresented.

Dr Manhattan said...

The Law Institute have announced that the whole of job fee structure that was announced last year will be abandoned.

I'll have some more information and links when we officially start posting again in Feb.