https://mojdigital.blog.gov.uk/2015/03/19/bills-bills-bills-bringing-legal-aid-crime-billing-online/

Bills, bills, bills: bringing legal aid crime billing online

Imagine moving a pile of paper half the size of Canary Wharf around the country every year - enough to fill nearly half a Boeing 737 airplane. Now imagine that made up only a small part of your billing process...

Stuart HollandsMy name is Stuart Hollands, and I’m the product manager for a new Crime Billing Online service. This will allow solicitors and advocates to log on to an online system to submit bills for representing people in the Crown Court under the publicly-funded legal aid scheme.

The billing is currently done using mountains of paperwork, which is inefficient for all concerned: solicitors and advocates as well as the casework teams in the Legal Aid Agency.

Who wants yesterday’s paper?

To give some sense of scale, for Crown Court bills there are over a quarter of a million submissions per year, each around 10 pages long. These move between 2 processing centres, and up to 4,000 solicitors and advocates could be involved at any stage.

Our first focus is to provide a platform for advocates to do this billing online and to speed up all the messages that currently go back and forth by snail mail.

The digital approach makes a lot of sense, and we're interested in hearing from solicitors and advocates on how we can effectively modernise the system and reduce their overheads.

Photo of a pile of paperwork by Tom Ventura from Wikimedia Commons (used under a Creative Commons licence).
Photo of a pile of paperwork by Tom Ventura from Wikimedia Commons (used under a Creative Commons licence).

What we've done so far

So where are we at? I have had to get up to speed with digital services and product management principles at a rate of knots. We have secured funding for the product, and successfully navigated the choppy seas of the Crown Commercial procurement process (which is as scary as it sounds).

We have already learned a lot and put together:

  • a solid backlog of user needs from research, meetings and workshops
  • a group of users from inside and outside the organisation to advise us on the development of the product
  • a team to build the product, made up of experienced staff from MOJ Digital

We've now completed the 'discovery' phase for the project and have started work in earnest.

Man with a Mac
Man with a Mac. Note there's less paper in this picture (reproduced courtesy of Pexels).

Get involved, and let us know what you think

At this stage we have a number of advocates and solicitors involved but we really want to spread the invitation as far and wide as possible.

If you have opinions on the system in its current form, or feel you would like to shape the way the product develops, please get in touch - you can respond to this blog or email me at stuart.hollands@digital.justice.gov.uk.

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