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Legal Aid Update March 2007

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.

http://www.crimeline.info/joomlasite/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=37&Itemid=1

Law Society Defending Legal Aid

  • Sign up for regular newsletters from the Law Society on Legal Aid Reforms

http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/newsandevents/news/majorcampaigns/view=newsarticle.law?CAMPAIGNSID=247074

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

http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/documents/downloads/dynamic/civillegalaid_remainderworkandnewwork140307.pdf

http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/documents/downloads/dynamic/gencrimcont_enforceabilitybdb_140307.pdf

  • 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.”

Parliament

  • 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

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/scrap-carter

  • 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.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmconst/uc223- v/uc22302.htm

  • Public Accounts Committee – Legal Aid and Mediation in Family cases

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmpubacc/uc396- i/uc39602.htm

Parliamentary Roundup

Parliament
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
Management Bill.
Link to EDM 537 Legal Aid Reform

Link to progress on the Legal Services Bill

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