Fee - UAH 151 per hour and constant delays in payments: how can lawyers continue to work?

Advocacy
12:43 Thu 21.03.24 52 Reviews
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Half of the lawyers involved by the state in providing citizens with free secondary legal aid consider the biggest problem of the existing system to be the payment for the services they have already provided, including the insufficient level of funding.

These are the results of the survey, which were taken into account by the UNBA Committee on Legal Aid in the preparation of the Report on topical issues of the functioning of the legal aid system in Ukraine. Its presentation was held on March 19.

Among the problems related to the payment for services, the attorneys interviewed in the course of the survey noted:

  • constant delays in payments;
  • low level of payment for services;
  • charging for less time than is actually spent on the case;
  • insufficient state funding;
  • the need to submit a significant number of documents for payment;
  • confusion of the charging system.

Olena Demyanova, Secretary of the UNBA Committee on Legal Aid, who participated in the preparation of the report, said that the Methodology for payment for services (Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 465 of 17.09.2014) is based on the amount of payment for the work of a lawyer per hour, which is currently 151 UAH. At the same time, it is the Methodology that determines how much time a lawyer will be paid for providing a particular type of assistance, regardless of the actual time spent. «For example, a pre-trial investigation should take 5 to 7 hours; a trial should take 13 to 16 hours; participation in a criminal proceeding in a court of appeal should take 6 to 8 hours. This includes participation in procedural actions and court hearings, preparation, collection of evidence, communication with the client, etc, - said the lawyer. - Obviously, this is absolutely not the time that a lawyer spends on providing legal aid. In her opinion, these rules have long been in need of revision».

She also drew attention to certain types of legal aid that the Methodology ignores altogether. For example, the UNBA receives complaints about the lack of payment for attorneys' requests in civil cases. Although this is an extremely important part of legal aid, which takes a lot of time.

In addition, the Methodology contains demotivating algorithms that do not take into account the real positive results of the work of advocates. For example, if a lawyer has obtained a probationary sentence for his client, but there is only one episode of the prosecution, this is not considered a positive result. Also, it is not considered a positive result if the investigator and prosecutor do not apply to the court for a preventive measure in the form of detention in respect of a detained person. «There are a lot of such cases, - comments O. Demyanova. - They distort the structure of relations and negatively affect the desire to work».

The report also pays attention to the problem of constant delays in payment, instability and unpredictability of the terms of settlements with lawyers.

«The FLA system in terms of funding for lawyers is completely non-transparent. Advocates do not know how much money they are owed, when it will be received, what are the available terms of repayment, - says a representative of the UNBA Committee. - Every lawyer knew how much money he or she was owed and, accordingly, how to expect payment. Today, the only way is to apply directly to the center's employees, which at least puts lawyers in a humiliating position and ... creates dependence».

To overcome these problems, the UNBA Report proposes to amend the Law «On Free Legal Aid» and the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 465 of 17.09.2014 «Issues of Payment for Services and Reimbursement of Expenses of Lawyers Providing Free Secondary Legal Aid» with the participation of the Bar, in particular, to establish the obligations of the FLA bodies to pay for the services provided with the regulation of clear deadlines and procedures, the algorithm for accepting acts of work performed for payment, their verification and resolving disputes over the amount of payment. It is also necessary to return to the practice of openness of information on payments for services rendered.

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