Risk reports in law centres
A Risk Register report has been developed and is available to all staff in the law centre. The report lists all cases in the law centre which have been assigned the High risk category, by solicitor and then by case type. Details given include the Applicant, Case No, Statute Expiry Date, Date of Application, and Case Status. As with all EOS reports, the report is correct as of the close of business the previous day. See Chapter 10 for further details.
With regard to risk management and limitation periods, there are two main areas of concern for the Board:-
(a) persons on the applications record; and
(b) existing clients.
Persons waiting for an appointment
The efficient and effective management of applications records is an essential part of risk management in the Board. Applications records must be actively managed on EOS and must be reviewed on a regular basis to:-
- ensure that only appropriate cases are on applications records i.e applicants that are financially eligible and satisfy other criteria of the Act,
- identify relevant cases to be assigned a high risk; and
- ensure priority cases are dealt with appropriately.
Managing solicitors are required to:-
- personally examine application forms received on a weekly basis;
- determine what applications should be assigned a high risk;
- determine the date of accrual of the action and the limitation period. Where necessary, the managing solicitor should seek further information from an applicant in order to determine the applicable limitation period, when the time started or will start to run, and when the period expires. It is recognised that in many cases it may not be easy to establish the limitation period. In those circumstances the earliest possible date of expiry should be entered. It is acknowledged that there may be an element of guesswork involved;
- ensure that applicants who are potential plaintiffs in actions for medical negligence/personal injuries are aware of the estimated expiry of the statute of limitations date, and the likelihood that an application for a legal aid certificate for the institution of such proceedings may be refused in the absence of two letters from private solicitors indicating that they are unwilling to accept the case on a “no foal no fee” basis.
- personally, or with the assistance of support staff ensure that the risk tab in EOS is utilised fully;
- determine what applications should be prioritised where there are potential statutory deadline issues; and
put a system in place to ensure that all staff are aware of:-
- the implications of limitation periods;
- when cases should be referred to PIAB, having regard to è Chapter 3 of this Handbook; and
- the provisions of the Handbook and Circular in relation to priority being given to new applicants seeking legal services where, there is a danger that the time limits for issuing proceedings may expire, unless immediate action is taken.
In addition to the above managing solicitors are required to:-
- insert in the shared diary all limitation dates;
- monitor the risk register on a weekly basis;
- ensure that all risk cases remain categorised as high risk until the file is closed; and
- identify completed cases / closed files that should be closed on EOS.
It is the Managing Solicitor’s responsibility to monitor the risk report to ensure cases, for which statutory deadlines are approaching, are dealt with appropriately. For this reason the managing solicitor should run and review the report on a weekly basis.