What is a legal aid certificate?
The Act provides that “a ‘certificate’ means a civil legal aid certificate issued by the Board…authorising the grant of legal aid to the person to whom the certificate relates”
A legal aid certificate is a document issued to a solicitor enabling them to represent a client in specified proceedings. It may also authorise them to spend money on specific services, such as Counsel, expert witnesses, reports. A solicitor can only represent a client in legal proceedings on foot of a legal aid certificate. They can only engage Counsel, commission reports, and call expert witnesses if the legal aid certificate authorises to them to do so. A legal aid certificate can be amended at a future date if we consider that an amendment is required. Amendments to legal aid certificates are dealt with later in this Part.
It is the practice to word certificates in general terms so as to allow law centres a reasonable amount of flexibility in dealing with the various steps to be taken once the decision to grant a certificate has been reached. Solicitors should always check the certificate to make sure that the authority granted by the certificate covers him/her to take the necessary action and incur particular expenses such as counsel. If solicitors engage counsel or particular witnesses without the necessary authority the Board may be in difficulty in making the necessary payment.