How many hours can Expert Witness Psychologists charge for reports?
There is no absolute maximum number of hours an Expert Witness Psychologist can charge, as it it very much dependent on the nature of the instructions and assessment plus other factors such as the amount of paperwork the Expert is required to review as part of the case. However, the Legal Aid Agency’s (LAA) Guidance on the Remuneration of Expert Witnesses in Family Cases (originally published in April 2013) gives both a “threshold above which prior authority should be applied” and indicative benchmark hours for examples cases.
For Psychologists the hours given as the “threshold” were as follows:
One individual to be assessed – 25 hours
Two individuals to be assessed – 35 hours
Three individuals to be assessed – 45 hours
In a subsequent update to their document the LAA went on to clarify at s3.12 that for the purposes of their recommended number of hours for psychologists and psychiatrists they would consider an additional 10 hours for each additional party being assessed to be appropriate. This would apply if 4 or more individuals were being assessed as part of an instruction.
With regard to the benchmark the LAA gave an “indication of typical hours generally allowed by LAA caseworkers” as follows:
Reading – 5 hours
Attending adult – 5 hours
Attending child – 3 hours
Psychological adult testing – 3 hours
Psychological child testing – 1.5 hours
Observing contact – 3 hours (where appropriate) per parents
Reporting – 10 hours (basic, increasing with number of parties)
Total – 30.5 hours*
*Addendum report – 5 hours (inc expert meetings, answering questions from judge, and considering transcripts)
The LAA make it clear that these hours are neither maximums nor minimums, but are simply to assist both Expert Witness Psychologists and instructing Solicitors. Both the number of hours and indeed the hourly rate can be exceeded, but this is subject to the instructing solicitor applying for Prior Authority from the Legal Aid Agency. The Legal Aid agency also state that “the time claimed by an expert will remain subject to assessment based on the individual circumstances of the case.” , so hours and fees have to be justifiable and proportionate.