Post by Colin Henderson on Jul 29, 2010 21:27:24 GMT
Following the loss to legal aid practice of about half the people whom he represents Richard Miller seems to have recovered from shock, picked himself off the floor and spoken. The latest Gazette report says little new but the language used is no exaggeration and I reproduce it in full below.
Although it's been over ten years coming this is the biggest constriction of civil legal aid ever. There's no legal solution to this - it's now for all networks and representative bodies to explain to the public and politicians what they have done, for judges to object to the inevitable rise in unassisted litigants who will clog the courts, for all of us to defend the useful work we do and the misery it prevents.
Last month we lost RMJ, the best advocates for asylum seekers in the country. This month we may lose many other respected firms. One has gone public already (see Nearly Legal for details) The Community Law Partnership in Birmingham is THE leading firm dealing with Gypsy and Traveller rights and has an excellent reputation amongst housing practitioners. They are appealing their failure and ask for letters of support. Mine is on its way - is yours?
That Law Soc article: "The family law supplier base has been ‘decimated’ by the ‘shock’ outcome of the Legal Services Commission’s tender for civil legal aid work, lawyers groups alleged this week.
The Law Society and Legal Aid Practitioners Group said member feedback indicated that around half of firms that bid had not been offered contracts, with some areas left with just a single provider. The LSC confirmed that the number of family providers has fallen by approximately 46%, from 2,400 to around 1,300.
Law Society president Linda Lee said ‘hundreds of good firms’ have been lost to the legal aid scheme. She has written to legal aid minister Jonathan Djanogly requesting an urgent review of the process to prevent ‘tens of thousands’ of clients being left without access to a solicitor. Chancery Lane is also seeking urgent legal advice on whether there are grounds to challenge the tender outcome. Former LSC chief executive Carolyn Regan had written to the Society in January stating ‘it is not our intention that the tender round should significantly reduce the provider base’.
Law Society legal aid policy manager Richard Miller said: ‘Because of this assurance the result has come as a terrible shock to firms, who are not prepared for the possibility of life outside legal aid. Many firms could be closed, and many partners and sole practitioners may become insolvent.’
Simon Pottinger, a consultant to legal aid firms, said the result was a ‘total bloodbath’ for firms and the supplier base had been ‘decimated’. He said it would lead to children or other parties going unrepresented in complex, multi-party child care cases because no solicitor would be available to act.
LAPG director Carol Storer said: ‘The next few months will be very unstable. This is unpalatable for practitioners and disruptive to clients who will find it hard to get a lawyer, especially in rural areas.’
The LSC said the majority of firms that lost out in the bidding had opened fewer than 100 new family cases in the last financial year. It said there would be at least five providers in each ‘procurement area’. LSC chair Bill Callaghan said: ‘We are confident that we now have a quality provider base and quality-assured provision across England and Wales.’