FAQ

How do I become a vendor?

Becoming a CPCS vendor is fairly simple.  The online vendor application can be found at:  https://www.publiccounsel.net/gc/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/03/Expert-Vendor-Application-Rev.March-2017.pdf  Completing and submitting the application is just the first step.  If you meet the qualifications to be placed on our vendor list you will receive information and forms regarding how to set up your billing so that you can get paid for your work. Please note that vendor applicants in categories other than Social Services (e.g., psychologist) must submit an approved Motion for Funds with their application. 

Additional information on becoming a CPCS vendor can be found on the “Becoming a CPCS Social Services Expert Vendor” page.

How can I market myself as a vendor?

As an independent contractor, you are welcome to promote yourself as a vendor for CPCS.  However, because attorneys are expected to do their own vetting of experts, you are not allowed to indicate that you are an employee of, or have been certified, accredited, or vetted by CPCS.  That being said, you can find some helpful marketing tips in our Fall 2019 newsletter.

Do I have to complete the vendor information form?

While we highly recommend completing the vendor information form; it is not required.  The vendor information form allows us to understand what kinds of cases you are willing to take and where you are willing to work. If you chose not to complete that form, your information may be forwarded to attorneys seeking experts for cases you are not interested in taking.

Can I take cases from any division?

YES!  It is up to you to let us know for which divisions you are willing to take cases.  Once you are “approved” as a vendor, you are able to take cases from any and all divisions. We encourage you to learn more about the different divisions and their specific social service needs and determine which best meets your interest and skill.

Who do I contact with billing questions?

While the divisional contacts for private social work/social service advocacy vendors may be able to answer some of your billing questions, please contact vendorbills@publiccounsel.net for system lockouts, replacement/stop payments or any questions regarding court cost billing

What if I am not sure if a service is billable?

If you are unsure if a service is billable please reach out to the divisional contact before performing the service.  Generally speaking, the Indigent Court Cost Act (ICCA) which funds vendor work does not allow for the billing of direct care or treatment services.  For example, you could observe a supervised visit to aid in the legal defense of the client, but you cannot be the visit supervisor; or you can refer your client to counseling but cannot provide therapy.

What if an attorney asks me to do something outside of my area of expertise?

Ethical codes for Social Service professions state that you should only work within your area of professional competence. When considering taking a case, know what the expected scope of work entails, and whether you have the needed education and experience to do that particular work. Communication with the attorney can help in determining your qualifications for a case.

If you are already working on a case and this occurs, you should consult with the attorney about the specific client needs, what you can and can’t provide in terms of your expertise, and you may consider recommending a different vendor that can meet those needs. For example, recommending that a licensed psychologist assess for a cognitive disability.

Can I decline a case?

Absolutely, you can decline any case at any time and for any reason.  You should take cases as your schedule and expertise allows.

What if I can’t take cases for a period of time?

Please let us know if you would like to be moved to our inactive list.  Vendors do this for a variety of reasons including health, relocation, extended vacations, and availability.  A simple phone call or email will move you back to the active status if and when you are ready.  Please note, that attorneys often share the names of vendors amongst themselves, so we cannot guarantee that you will not be contacted during this time; however, we will not be including your name and information in any request for vendors.

How do I assess for conflicts?

Assessing for conflicts goes beyond completing the required forms (if you are employed by another state agency).  Please be mindful that you may be employed by a non-state agency/school/hospital in which a conflict could exist.  Attorneys can help you assess for conflicts prior to taking a case.  Additionally, your social work/social service expert divisional contact can also help with this. Examples of conflicts include cases in which any parties have received services from you or your employer agency

What is the difference between best interest and expressed wishes?

Best interest refers to an outside person deciding what they believe is best for the person.  This is the model often used in human services and child welfare systems.  However, as part of the legal team, it is your job to work within the client’s expressed wishes.  For example, you may be part of a legal team in which a youth wants to return home.  While you may question whether or not this is in the youth’s best interest, it is your job to advocate for this and identify services which would support the client in reaching their legal goals.

Do I have to drive clients?

No.

What do I do if the attorney/client is not responding?

Please document all of your efforts to reach the attorney and/or client.  If, after a period of time, you have not received any response from the client, please inform the attorney that you are available if and when they feel your involvement will be helpful. If the attorney is not responding reach out to the divisional contact in your case.

What is Substituted Judgement?

Substituted Judgement in child welfare cases is a legal question that a child’s attorney must answer.  CAFL attorneys have a matrix that they use when assessing whether or not to use substituted judgement in a legal case.  Social workers should not weigh in on this issue.  In contrast, in MHLD adult guardianship and involuntary treatment petitions, substituted judgement is a process undertaken by the court to determine the course of action the client would choose. Social service vendors may be hired to interview the client or collateral contacts, review records, and investigate to determine the client’s specific preferences or wishes. In both types of cases, assessment of competence should not be performed by social service vendors.

Do I need my own release forms?

We would encourage you to develop HIPAA-compliant release forms.  There are several examples online that should help with this process.  Please note that individual attorneys may request that you use a release form they provide.

Should I be getting client’s records and files or will the attorney do that?

You should not request any records without first consulting with the attorney.  In your initial consultations with the attorney, determine whether obtaining records would be within the scope of your engagement in the case. In some cases, the attorney may be in a better position to request records for their client.

What should I ask an attorney when they call to hire me on a case?  What do I need?

When starting a case you will need an APPROVED Motion for Funds, and the NAC number for the case. Please note that staff attorneys are not issued NAC numbers. In addition, we recommend obtaining a letter of engagement that specifies the scope of the requested work and services, your role, and timeline of any work product or court dates. You will also need client contact information, signed releases, and the context/theory/criminal charges for the case.

What should I say to clients about confidentiality?

As retained expert, you are a member of the client’s legal team. What they share with you is protected by attorney/client confidentiality and privilege. Before starting a case you should discuss with the attorney any limits posed to confidentiality by your professional licensing or ethics. Based on this discussion, you should clearly explain to the client any confidentiality limits you might have.

What if the information I uncover is not helpful to the client’s legal case?

Please inform the attorney immediately if you uncover any information that may not be helpful to the client.  The attorney will work with you to assess your involvement moving forward.  The attorney may discuss with you how the new information could be presented in a way that mitigates any negative impact.