Monday, May 10, 2010

Those were the days

Whilst clearing out some old papers I came across the above, an Application for Legal Aid Certificate (Matrimonial), vintage April 1983. Back in those days you didn't need to chop down an Amazonian rain forest every time you wanted to apply for legal aid. The form comprised a mere six sides of A4 (one of which just required a signature, and another of which was for 'Official Use Only'), and included the client's statement of means. The entire form only took a few minutes to complete.

Now, I don't know how many pages comprise a legal aid application now, but when I last completed one back in the early nineties, no fewer than four forms were required, if my memory serves me correctly. These comprised the application itself which went to about 20 pages, a means form (another 20-odd pages), a statement of earnings from the client's employer and a form relating to mediation. Needless to say, getting all of these completed was a major undertaking, adding considerably to the costs, and a major reason for me giving up legal aid work (rather naively, I had entered into the law to do the job clients instructed me to do, rather than fill in forms). The forms must also have added enormously to the bureaucracy and delay required to process them (having a form sent back because it was not completed, or not completed correctly, was another major frustration).

Quite why legal aid forms expanded exponentially was a bit of a mystery. The Legal Services Commission (or whoever administers legal aid these days) would no doubt say that it was primarily to ensure that legal aid went to those who truly required it, although I don't recall any greater percentage of clients being refused (of course, fewer clients became entitled, as the financial eligibility bar was raised). On the other hand, a cynic would say that the forms expanded with the sole purpose of deterring people from applying at all...

5 comments:

  1. Currently?

    Family Legal Aid App - 13 pages
    (Civil Legal Aid App- 15 pages)
    Means Form - 20 Pages
    employers form - 3 pages
    Mediation Form - 3 pages.

    Legal Help is 7 pages long...do you remember the old, doublesided sheet of A4 Green Form...

    And don't get me started on High Cost Case plans...

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  2. Many thanks for that. Seems my memory may have exaggerated the size of the application form, but not by much...

    Yes, I do remember the old Green Form - think I may also have one of those somewhere.

    As you suggest, the application forms are only the tip of the legal aid iceberg...

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  3. I remember the old "Green Form" when it was just double-sided A4 and was green. As a trainee in 1991-93 I seemed to do nothing but Green Form work and legal aid applications.

    I particularly remember the introduction of legal aid franchising and the LAB always being keen to publish how much the LA scheme cost to run but not how much was been wasted on new forms, new initiatives etc. I went to a seminar (possibly Law Society organised or maybe not) in Northampton c 1995 where Steve Orchard the then Chief Exec of the LAB gave a presentation and was roundly booed.

    It's always good to travel down memory lane but this instance serves as a reminder that the good old days were anything but good!

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  4. Ah, that's because you don't go back far enough!

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  5. Ah what a lovely blast from the past - remember filling in the green forms etc. Happy Days

    Barbara

    ReplyDelete

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