I had a full day at the office planned, but on Wednesday I learned of an unexpected hearing, for Friday, in DistantTown, which is about 2 hours from me. This meant having to apply to amend my client's legal aid. You wouldn't think that would be too difficult, as the criteria were clearly met, but due to cutbacks and backlogs most applicartions take weeks to process. Which is not good when you need a reply within 2 days.
So, the process is something like this:
- Phone Legal Aid. Spend 45 minutes on hold listening to cheesy elevator music, interrupted evey 30 seconds or so by mesages saying that your call will be answered shortly (even long after it has become obvious that this is, in fact, a LIE) and that it is important to them (which, frankly, is also a LIE, as they are a monopoly)
- Eventually reach an actual person, who confirms what you already know, namely that they can't actually grant the necessary amendment over the phone, only give you a code to allow you to fax it in to be dealt with urgently, which will "probably" be done within 48 hours.
- Fax application, making sure to get a delivery confirmation
- the following morning, telephone to follow up & see whether the application has been dealt with. Spend 70 minutes on hold waiting for your call to be answered "shortly".
- Just as you lose the will to live (or at least to live as a person who has to deal with the Legal services Commission) you get to a person, who claims that they have not recieved the fax. After some discussion, they admit that it would be possible to scan and e-mail a further copy of the form, which we duly do...
- Ring for a third time. (because they won't actually phone of fax to tell you. that would be too easy) Weep softly forthe 30 minutes spent on hold while listening to cheesy elevator music and insincere messages.
- get amendment.
The hearing on Friday was listed for one hour, at 11 a.m. So I was fairly tired and a little stressed when it finished at 3.35. And was not best pleased when I then discovered that due to an accident on the Motorway, traffic was backed up into town, so my journey back, which would normally take about 90 minutes (to the office) or 2 hours (to home) was considerably extended.
The back log from the motorway being closed probably only delayed me for about 20 minutes, but as it turned out, after that I was also destined to be further delayed by The Old Man in a Flat Cap, driving at 30 mph or 10 mph below the spped limit, whichever was slower, the Van Towing Trailer (apprently driven by someone who had never towed anything, and possibly never driven anything before, the Funeral Cortege (and who holds a funeral at 5 in the afternoon?) and, of course, the Extra-Long, Extra-Wide Articulated Lorry Carrying Portakabins sent to meet me just as the narrowest, sharpest corner in Glastonbury.
All of which meant it took me nearly 2 1/2 hours to get back, so I literally only had time to lock ny files into the house before rushing back to the station to catch a train to London at 6.15. and then that train was delayed so I had to sprint to change platforms at Bath, making the connection by the skin of my teeth.
Mercifully there was a bar on the train.