Referring to the solicitors panel
Appeals of District Court matters to the Circuit Court
If a legally aided person wishes to appeal the court decision to the Circuit Court the person must make a fresh application for legal services at the law centre. In principle the person will, if legal aid is granted, again be referred to the solicitors panel.
Legal aid certificates may be granted at law centre level or by the Dolphin House Service for appeals from the District Court to the Circuit Court in relation to matters that come within the ambit of the District Court private family law solicitors’ panel.
Where an applicant:
- has been legally aided for the original hearing
- representation was provided by a member of the solicitors panel
- the applicant will be the appellant in the proposed appeal they must be asked to bring a letter from their private solicitor to the law centre outlining the grounds upon which the applicant seeks to appeal the decision of the District Court.
Legal aid certificates should not be granted in relation to applications to extend time to file a Notice of Appeal. It is considered that applications of this nature can be made by the applicants themselves and without legal representation.
Circuit Court matters
Private solicitors may be retained for separation and divorce cases, where a legal aid certificate has been granted.
Procedure 6.2 – Referring a client to a Private Practitioner
The following procedure assumes that the client has already been identified (see Chapter 3). In the event that the client has never attended in person in the Law Centre at this stage, the client MUST be asked to attend in the law centre in person to sign their legal aid certificate, and have their identity verified at that stage in accordance with the procedure in Chapter 3.
- The Managing Solicitor will make a decision that a particular applicant on the applications record should be referred to a private practitioner.
- Make a Submission for a Private Practitioner Legal Aid Certificate to the Managing Solicitor on EOS.
- The managing solicitor will grant the submission. The managing solicitor should make the legal aid certificate available to Legal Services.
- The applicant should be written to (using the standard letter available on EOS) asking them to pay their legal aid contribution, if it has not already been paid (see sample letter below).
- When the contribution is received, the applicant should be sent two copies of a legal aid certificate along with the relevant panel (District Court or Circuit Court panel for the county the proceedings are to take place in), a receipt for the contribution, along with the standard covering letter available on EOS.
- An applicant who is being referred on foot of the Circuit Court PP scheme must also be furnished with a standard letter under Section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 explaining the basis under which the Board intends to retain its costs in the event of a settlement. (This letter should be handed to applicants who attend to sign their legal aid certificate in person). The standard letter to be used is available on EOS. A third copy of the legal aid certificate should be placed on the application file.
- The client must accept the certificate by signing and dating both copies within one month of the date on the certificate. They should also write the solicitors name in the space provided on both copies.
- They must then return one copy to the law centre and give the second copy to their chosen solicitor. Law Centres must follow up, where a legal aid certificate has been issued to a client but not accepted within thirty days. Law centres should also ensure that they are notified of the solicitor engaged.
Selection of solicitor
The client must choose the private solicitor themselves from the panel. Except in the circumstances outlined below, a law centre may not recommend, or otherwise guide a client towards, any particular solicitor from the panel. Law centres should normally refrain from becoming involved in the engagement of solicitors by clients who have been issued PP certificates – the client should be told that they must contact a solicitor on the panel directly.
In certain limited circumstances where the client may have difficulties in doing this, it is permissible for the law centre to assist the client, however law centres should only do this where absolutely necessary and the choice of private practitioner must be made by the client. This can also be done where a client has contacted three solicitors from the panel all of whom were not in a position to represent the client.
A law centre may select a solicitor for the client, on a strict rotational basis among the solicitors proving services in the particular area, for the following matters:
- recovery of foreign maintenance, where the applicant is being assisted by the Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery
- international protection.
Under no circumstances may a client engage a private solicitor who is not a member of the relevant Panel.
Managing solicitors (or where authorised, a designated staff member acting under delegated authority from the managing solicitor) are not precluded from referring out a case to the District Court solicitors panel merely because it is not the next application on the applications record. If the case is likely to be referred to the panel on account of the demand at the Centre, a conflict of interest or for geographical reasons, an early decision should be made in relation to the referral.
No case should be referred out ahead of an earlier case on the applications record where the reason for referral is the same e.g, if a case is being referred out because of the level of demand at the centre, it should not be referred out ahead of another similarly referable case.