Following the frenzy of activity and debate last week as to whether or not firms should sign the new contract for civil work, it now seems that many firms have signed the contract....But under protest.
The LAPG and Fisher Meredith Solicitors have both released press releases today warning of the consequences if the deadline to sign the proposed new Unified Contract is not extended.
The LAPG has today written to the Legal Services Commission urging the LSC to think again about imposing the new legal aid contract on the legal professsion in order to prevent significant harm to the interests of clients.
All civil providers are expected to sign the new unified contract by 31st March 2006. As that date draws close, there has been a frenzy of activity about whether or not providers should sign.
Legal aid is under threat.
The latest government proposals will deny justice to the most vulnerable in society. In a time of increased police powers, a raft of new offences and a greater complexity of law, the government want to dumb down justice. While we see more legislation criminalising peaceful protest, repressive legislation for asylum seekers, and with Courts busier than ever before in family and care proceedings, more and more people will face these issues without legal representation. Without access to justice, there can be no justice.
Please join us on Monday 19th March, 2.30pm-5.30pm at Old Palace Yard, opposite Houses of Parliament, to show a united front against this infringement of basic civil liberties. Bring banners, placards and as many of your friends and colleagues as you can muster.
Reaction to YLAL Event 22nd February
Legal Service Commission Otterburn Report into the Carter Reforms
The report is a worrying assessment of the impact of Carter on Legal Aid Firms. For a good summary of the report follow the link below.
Law Society Defending Legal Aid
Sign up for regular newsletters from the Law Society on Legal Aid Reforms
Recent News from the Legal Aid Practitioners Group http://www.lapg.co.uk/
Unified Contract LAPG has condemned the significant commercial risks placed on practitioners from by the draft unified contract. The Specification prohibits suppliers from undertaking the management of caseloads necessary to operate in a fixed fee environment, by imposing on solicitors a ‘cab-rank rule’, under which they will be required to take on every case that comes through the door if they have current capacity. “The LSC is also reserving the right to cut the Standard or Graduated Fees during the short life of this contract if the average amount of work reported by the profession in any category decreases by more than 10%. So in the unlikely event that firms can achieve savings as the LSC wants to encourage, their reward will be to have the fees cut again.” “On top of all of this, the dreaded Contract Compliance Audits are back with a vengeance, complete with extrapolation of results to all of a firm’s non-standard claims and recoupment of costs previously paid. CCAs did huge damage to firms’ cash flow when the LSC recouped hundreds of thousands of pounds legitimately claimed by firms, after inadequately qualified and poorly trained LSC staff carried out incompetent audits.
For More information on the Unified Contract and the Law Society’s Legal Advice to firms see links below
LAPG Still has grave concerns about the LSC’s Proposals for Family graduated fixed fees. Although the plans are an improvement on the way ahead they still have worries, in particular and child work. They also have serious concerns about the fees in Immigration and how the LSC have actually calculated these fees.
Pressures of responding to so many consultations Richard Miller,also expressed concern about the pace and extent of change. “Today I have downloaded nineteen pdf files from the Legal Services Commission website, including annexes and regulatory impact assessments. This is on top of consultations published earlier this month on police station boundaries and the very high cost criminal case panel, not to mention the negotiations on the new unified contract. I am paid full time to keep on top of the LSC’s initiatives, and I can barely cope with this blizzard of publications. How on earth can any practitioner who is trying to conduct a substantial caseload to a high standard be expected to do so? The sheer volume, speed and extent of the changes is liable to destroy the legal aid system even if the substance doesn’t.”
The Legal Aid EDM now has 141 signatures from MPs. Ask your MP to sign if they have not done son already.
Sign up to the Downing Street Petition ‘Scrap Carter’ using the link below
The Constitutional Affairs Committee Evidence 20th February on Legal Aid reforms – See what the Head of Legal Services Commission has to say on the implementation of the Carter Proposals.
Public Accounts Committee – Legal Aid and Mediation in Family cases
On 22nd March 2007, Bindmans and Partners announced that they do not intend to sign up to the new contract for providing civil legal aid services.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) publishes its Third Report of Session
2006-07, Legislative Scrutiny: Second Progress Report, on Wednesday 7 February
2007 at 10.00 am as House of Lords Paper HL 39, House of Commons Paper HC 287.
In this report, the Committee draws the special attention of both Houses to the
Concessionary Bus Travel Bill, the Legal Services Bill and the Offender
Link to EDM 537 Legal Aid Reform
Link to progress on the Legal Services Bill