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Submitting accurate claims

Submitting accurate claims

Submitting accurate claims

Is there an active Proforma invoice available in the matter?

Lawyers should only claim for fees and disbursements which are the subject of a specific approval from Legal Aid NSW. All solicitor fees, counsel's fees and disbursements approved under the grant of aid will be covered by an item on a proforma invoice issued to the assigned lawyer. These items (fees for solicitor or counsel, and disbursements) are collectively referred to as work items.

Lawyers may not claim for any fees or disbursements which have not been the subject of a specific approval from Legal Aid NSW via a proforma invoice.

Each extension which is approved will be covered by at least one proforma invoice, and each proforma invoice will contain at least one work item.

The grant approval will outline which work items are approved and on what basis. This can be found in your Inbox in Grants Online.

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Does this match the work or disbursement I want to claim for?

Point 9 of the Terms and Conditions of use of Grants Online instructs the lawyer to “claim fees only for the purpose specified in the grant of legal aid. For example the practitioner may not claim fees against hours approved for court attendance to cover preparation undertaken by the practitioner.”

This is also addressed in Point 5 of the Guide to claiming fees which states:

“Work items can only be claimed for the specific purpose for which they were approved. For example, hours specified as being for court time cannot be claimed for preparation work. Similarly, hours allowed for preparation cannot be claimed for another purpose such as court attendance or travel. Court time for a final hearing/trial may only be claimed for the final hearing/trial and not for mentions or procedural hearings.

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Is the work I m claiming for complete or has the cost of the disbursement been incurred?

You should not claim from Legal Aid NSW unless the work you are claiming for is complete or you have incurred the cost of the disbursement.

Point 1 and 5 of the Guide to claiming fees states:

“Fees and disbursements may only be claimed after work covered by the fees has been completed, or after the cost of the disbursement has been incurred.”

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Is my claim for conduct money against the "WITH GST" line item?

Is my claim for conduct money against the “WITH GST” line item? All claims for conduct money made by private lawyers to Legal Aid NSW must be against the “WITH GST” line item and must be supported by appropriate documentation which must be retained on the client’s file.

Point 8 of the Guide to claiming fees states:

“Some proforma invoices (such as for conduct money and filing fees) contains two line items – one adds GST to the claim and the other does not. Private practitioners should use the “WITH GST” line item. Even where the practitioner does not pay GST when a subpoena is issued, the provision of the conduct money is treated as a taxable supply by the practitioner and GST should be added to the claim submitted to Legal Aid NSW. The “NO GST” line item is included on the proforma invoice for use by Legal Aid NSW inhouse solicitors only.

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Does my claim for court time reflect the actual time spent before the court?

It is acknowledged that often the amount of time spent at court is greater than the time available to claim against in the proforma invoice. This is because Legal Aid NSW does not pay for waiting or cancellation time. In accordance with the Legal Aid NSW Scale of Fees, when representing a legally aided client under a grant of legal aid lawyers are only eligible to claim for actual time in front of a Judge or Magistrate.

Point 5 of the Guide to claiming fees states:

“Where work items are claimed on a unit basis, the actual time spent on the activity must be claimed. For example, for court time, the actual time spent appearing in court should be claimed, to the nearest half hour.”

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Do I have all relevant documents on file to support the claim I am making?

To comply with audits, documents in support of claims made must be retained on the lawyer’s client file for audit purposes.

Court attendances and conferences

The file management section of all Practice Standards require a lawyer acting in a legally aided matter to ensure that all court attendances are noted on the file in date order and include in particular the start and finish times of the court attendance. In addition panel lawyers are also required to maintain clear and legible file notes of all telephone conversations, conferences, interviews, meeting with clients (including verbal children) or witnesses and experts and include at a minimum a) date, b) name of person spoken to; and c) relevant details of the conversation.

You can find a court attendance sheet and Conference attendance sheet template on the Audit information page of our website which you may find of assistance.

Disbursements

Point 10 of the Terms and Conditions of use of Grants Online requires the practitioner to retain on his/her file receipts for all disbursements for which payment has been claimed from Legal Aid NSW. However for disbursements consisting of telephone calls, faxes, photocopies or mileage, the practitioner may retain, instead of receipts, other verifying evidence such as file notes, fax transmission records and copies of telephone accounts, vehicle logs and photocopier logs.

Acceptable supporting documentation for disbursements

Type of disbursement

Acceptable supporting documents

Conduct money

Copies of:

· tax invoices/receipts

· cheques

· cheque butts

· letter or office ledger

verifying payment made, date, to whom and the relevant matter/legal aid client.

Commercial agent fees

Copies of:

· tax invoices/receipts

· cheques

· cheque butts

· letter or office ledger

verifying payment made, date, to whom and the relevant matter/legal aid client.

Travel and accommodation

For mileage: a file note for each claim confirming the date of travel, your starting point, your destination and the approximate distance travelled in kilometres.

For other travel expense claims including accommodation and sustenance copies of tax invoices and receipts.

You can find a Court attendance sheet plus travel which you may find of assistance.

Interpreter fees

Copies of tax invoices and receipts verifying payment made, date, to whom and in relation to which matter/legal aid client.

Expert reports and witness expenses

Copies of tax invoices and receipts verifying payment made, date, to whom and in relation to which matter/legal aid client.

General disbursements

Copies of:

· tax invoice or receipts verifying payment made, date, to whom and in relation to which matter/legal aid client

· a written breakdown of how the expenses claimed under general disbursements were calculated

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Am I the practitioner who performed the work in the matter?

The lawyer who performs the work should log in with their Grants Online username and password and submit the claim for payment.

Point 5 of the Guide to claiming fees explains that “When a claim is submitted, the practitioner must certify that the claim is correct. This certification can only reasonably be made by the practitioner who has performed work in the matter. Therefore, before submitting a claim, the practitioner must ensure that the claim accurately reflects the work performed.”

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Have I reassigned counsel's invoice?

Assigned solicitors should not be submitting claims on behalf of approved counsel in a matter.

Point 1 of the Guide to claiming fees instructs:

“Where the approval from Legal Aid NSW covers counsel’s fees, the proforma invoice for counsel’s fees must be reassigned to counsel to enable counsel to submit the invoice via Grants Online.”

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Is this the final Claim?

If yes, then in addition to submitting your final claim, you must also submit a file outcome.

The requirement for lawyers to submit a file outcome form at the completion of a legally aided matter is outlined under clause 3.5.1 of panel lawyer Service Agreements:

“3.5.1 At the conclusion of an assigned matter for which aid has been granted, the Lawyer will advise Legal id NSW of the outcome of the proceedings by completing and submitting the File Outcome form in Grants Online…..”

In addition all Practice Standards reinforce this by requiring panel lawyers to:

“Review all files on completion of the matter to ensure all necessary steps have been taken before notifying the Grants Division that the matter is finalised. When submitting the final claim to the Grants Division the lawyer must complete the file outcome form setting out the steps involved in completion of the matter and the result in the matter.”

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