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Advocate Defence Payments - Service Assessment

The Legal Aid Agency administers the Legal Aid budget for England and Wales. Advocate Defence Payments looks to replace the existing paper process for barristers and solicitor advocates submitting claims for Crown Court cases.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment Stage:

Result of Assessment:
Not pass

Lead Assessor:
S. Wood

Product Manager:
S. Hollands

Digital Leader:
M. Coats

Assessment Report

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration the assessment panel has concluded the Advocate Defence Payments service should not be given approval to launch on the domain as a Beta service.


The assessment panel wants to make it clear that team working on the service is very competent and the service is very much going in the right direction.

There are three issues that resulted in the service not passing at this point.

Additional design work is needed before this service can go into public beta. [Specific details were attached as an annex to this report.] The panel was impressed with the amount of work that has gone into streamlining the service, and in removing unnecessary forms, such as the AF2. The design assessor has offered to to spend some time pairing with your new designer.

Although it is expected that most users of this service will be frequent users and will understand the terminology used, it needs to be designed so that occasional and new users find it as simple as specialists billing clerks would.

The service should be on the domain. This may involve designing a start page on the GOV.UK site. The conversation with GOV.UK proposition manafers has not taken place so far and will need to before Advocate Defence Payments can be launched as a beta.

During the assessment it was clear that the team is preparing to take the service into private beta. This can happen once a service passes the alpha assessment. The awarding of a beta pass follows, not precedes, a private beta. That the service is yet to go to private beta in itself tells us that there is more testing to do before it can be confidently said that it has reached the minimum viable product (MVP) state and is ready to go onto GOV.UK.


Allow firms to submit claims unaided during the private beta phase and monitor results
Bring a content designer into the team and pair with a GDS designer
Although it is not mandatory to have a product analyst during the alpha, when the service enters public beta, this role will prove to be invaluable. The service manager is encouraged to bring this role into the team.
From a technical point of view, while it was very good to hear that an ethical hacker is testing the systems, the panel recommends that a third party conducts a review of the security prior to launching as a public beta.
The API authentication method needs to be defined and confirmed. Failing that, the service should obtain confirmation from the SIRO that she understand the risk and is prepared to accept it.
Approach to preventative monitoring needs to be put in place in order to spot any untoward activities, such as login enumeration.
Contact the GOV.UK proposition team to discuss the domain, start and end pages.

[A number of design recommendations was included in the annexe.]


The panel would like to emphasise that it was very impressed with the service team. In particular it has been noted that the proportion of civil servants is higher on this service than any other MoJ service. For example the new front-end developer is a civil servant and knowledge transfer is taking place via working with a contractor. It was also good to see that a business analyst is now embedded into the team.

Some really good research into user needs for assisted digital support has been undertaken. The plans for digital take-up are very sound. Although no potential AD users have been identified yet, the proposed support (telephone and face-to-face) is ready to test in beta if required. Digital take-up is vital for this service and the team’s timescale is ambitious and commendable.

Digital Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 No
13 No 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes