Pondering the irritations of being requested by a solicitor to attend court an hour before a hearing when the court has forgotten to order that early attendance, meaning we run the risk of attending for a hearing and being paid a pathetic £60 odd (that’s gross – rule of thumb net that down for tax and expenses by dividing by 2 = £30). There is a theory that the court can amend the order under the slip rule when the mistake is noted, but whilst this must be logically correct I’m not convinced it will satisfy the requirements of LSC logic (wherein technicalities are acceptable only as long as they save the LSC money). And some try and rely on the “local standing direction” thing, but again the LSC don’t like that much either (here I think they are right, it has to be in an order).
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind attending early – I like to do the job properly. I always attend 30 minutes early as a matter of course – its polite and its good practice. But under FAS if you are at court for only 29 minutes after the listed time (which is quite possible if you do a good hour’s negotiation for free and then hand in a consent order) you get paid half a peanut. That half hour extra isn’t just half an hour – it can be have a significant impact on what we earn – the difference between financially viable and effectively working for nowt.
We were at court an hour early today, and as a consequence of our diligence knocked things on the head a little bit quicker than required in order to trigger a semi-sensible amount of money under FAS. I bought a twix and a tank of petrol on the way back from court that cost almost £60. So it matters.
So. As I say. Pondering at North Avon FPC, where all good ideas are hatched, we realised that it would be so much easier if at the first hearing the court made the direction that “For the avoidance of doubt advocates and parties are ordered to attend 45 minutes / one hour in advance of the listed time for all future hearings listed in this matter, unless otherwise stated.”
Job done, surely? I must be missing some obvious reason why this wouldn’t be an effective way of saving everyone a lot of effort and annoyance, but I can’t think of it.