Post by Patrick Torsney on Mar 1, 2007 11:36:31 GMT
Many out there are humming and hahing about whether to sign the contract or not
Maybe this 'debate', or question, isn't really a question at all - many NfP organisations know now that they will sign and that's that: the negotiations and lobbying of the LSC has acheived some positive changes but now it's time to get down to making it work
However, it's good to be informed so, for those who are considering their position here are a couple of useful items that might be relevant:
1. Recent Charity Commission guidance on public service delivery and entering into contracts with Public Bodies (published February 2007), nothing startlingly new but a good overview for charities and clear and useful:
Charities and Public Service Delivery – An Introduction and Overview
If you think you might not sign please make sure that you take full and proper advice from your trustee board/organisation's legal adviser and advice network on the pro's and con's before walking away. Remember also, the contract is going to be on an equivalent payment basis (hours worked = money, as is the case now) for the first six-months until the implementation of fixed-fees in October anyway so you will have further time to adjust and make changes; also, you do have the right to issue notice to terminate, it's not signing with no way out for three years
Post by Colin Henderson on Mar 23, 2007 10:42:28 GMT
I refer to the news today that JR IS being threatened by the Law Soc (see separate thread for the letter before action) They have also written to Bichard asking him to postpone the contract implementation:
Another development is the latest advice from the LCF to Law Centres on signing. Steve Hynes says:
"As you will be aware the Legal Services Commission is in the process of issuing new contracts. As yet no Law Centre has indicated that they will not be signing the contract. It seems from the feedback we have had, that while Law Centres are unhappy with the new contractual terms, most are not in a position to refuse to sign. Some solicitors firms are though likely to refuse to sign the contract and LCF also understands that the Law Society is going to mount a legal challenge to the contract. We should get more details on this in the next few days. Any Law Centre which decides not to sign the contract could you please inform me? If you chose not to sign the contract LCF would recommend that you write to the Commission to ask for permission to continue work on the controlled work cases you have obtained a certificate for. The Commission should not refuse you permission to do this.
LCF and the other NfP organisations are still negotiating with the Legal Services Commission on the transition arrangements that will operate for organisations changing over to fixed fees from 1st October. LCF also wants to continue to campaign on the level of fixed fees over the coming months. We are therefore advising those Law Centres that do decide to sign the contract to write in the following statement-
“This Law Centre’s agreement to these terms is subject to the outcome of the negotiations with the Legal Services Commission on the transitional arrangements and the level of fixed fees agreed after 1st Oct.”
If Law Centres are unhappy writing this into the contract documentation then LCF suggests that they include the statement in a covering letter to their regional LSC with the signed copy of the contract."
I think a rider is a good idea, but in addition to the wording suggested above I would add:
"agreement is also subject to the outcome of negotiations or litigation between the Law Society and the LSC on the terms of the Unified Contract."
Neither rider is controversial: it just states the reality of the situation. Please note this is JR just for a declaration that Clause 13 (which allows the unilateral alteration of any term by the LSC) is incompatible with the Public Contract Regs 2006. Loks like a strong point, but its not an attack on any other points and the deadline for response is 5 April, and the contracts have to be returned by 30 March.
Obviously therefore most NfP's are going to sign rather than stop work, but we should at least register we are doing so unhappily and only insofar as the contract is found to be lawful and enforceable.
Post by Colin Henderson on Mar 27, 2007 14:17:29 GMT
Latest today from the Law Soc is as follows:
"Unified contract - time to decide Poll: 58% of firms either not signing or considering not signing - 11% of firms are leaving legal aid, so not signing the contract. - 47% of firms are considering not signing and so leaving legal aid work. - 41% are reluctantly signing the contract. - 1% of firms are happy to sign the contract.
Several firms announce decision A number of firms have publicly stated their decision not to sign, including Bindman & Partners, Fisher Meredith, and David Gray Solicitors. If you'd like to make a public statement about your decision to sign, or not to sign, please e-mail us your firm's decision.
What does this tell us? The new unified legal aid contract will decimate supply in the legal aid market. This was foreseen by the Otterburn report (PDF, 235kb) and the research we commissioned from the LECG (PDF, 257kb).
What is the Law Society doing? – The Law Society is pursuing a legal challenge to the contract, which could lead to the removal by the LSC of clauses giving them a unilateral right to amend the contract. We are calling on the LSC to defer introduction of the new contract until the legal issues are settled. Read more – Some practitioners have suggested that the Law Society hold their signed contracts 'in escrow'. We believe this would not protect firms because the LSC may not recognise such contracts, and such action would also be in breach of the Competition Act. Law Society statement on escrow suggestion 27 March 2007 (PDF, 28kb)
What should practitioners do? The fact remains that legal aid practitioners are left with a stark choice: sign the contract by 1 April or stop doing legal aid work. If you've decided to sign the contract, don't forget to get this to the LSC by close of business on Friday 30 March. "
I say well done to the private practice colleagues who are making a stand.
If you are signing reluctantly, why not tell the LSC so in your covering letter.
Patrick, what about a poll of forum members similar to the Law Soc one? It would be good to know how many agencies are giving up legal aid work at this point.
Post by Colin Henderson on Mar 30, 2007 14:59:37 GMT
Just a last reminder to those who may be taking a relaxed approach to signing on time.
You have unit close of business TODAY to get the abominable thing signed and back.
As my account manager has just clarified, unless it's on the fax today, you stop being a legal aid provider on Monday and there is absolutely no way the LSC have to allow your more time.
The LSC are taking a strict line cos they've been forced into doing a ring-round today chasing the contracts. I think they want to know how bad the damage is from the refusal campaign and are in no mood to be lenient if you are late.
For the (growing) list of firms taking a stand go to:
In a statement released by the LSC, the deadline for return of the signed contract has been extended to 5pm today, Monday 2nd April
The LSC says:
"Although we have no concerns about access England and Wales, we recognise that some providers may have failed to meet the deadline through no fault of their own and in the circumstances we confirm that we will continue to accept signed contracts until 5pm on Monday 2 April 2007."
The CAB I represent have decided not to accept a new contract. Previously we had a combined contract for Debt and Welfare Benefits. We were meeting our performance targets and were in a position to carry on however we took the view that the fixed fees, the additional workload on our caseworkers whilst ensuring quality of advice were unacceptable. I have though through additional funding etc. been able to keep the staff employed albeit in slightly different roles.
Post by Patrick Torsney on Apr 4, 2007 5:30:26 GMT
Vast majority sign
Late yesterday (5.26pm) the LSC announced that:
94% of law firms
97% of not-for-profit agencies
had signed new civil legal aid contracts and will be continuing to provide civil legal aid services
The LSC had extended the deadline for returning the new Unified Civil Legal Aid Contracts from 5pm last Friday to 5pm Monday (see earlier item)
Carolyn Regan, LSC Chief Executive said:
“I wrote to civil providers last week to encourage those who had not already signed the new unified contract to do so and to correct what we saw as unbalanced advice from The Law Society. Contrary to some claims, there was no threat to recoup money paid for ongoing cases. In fact, I specifically stated that providers could continue with existing cases. The only exception would be when this was not in the interests of the legal aid client or taxpayers’ money was being put at risk. The letter said they could not take on new work without a current legal aid contract. This is not unreasonable - given the contract is our way of ensuring the quality of legal aid services and accountability for public funds.”
Unfortunately, the LSC did not send the letter to NfP suppliers, although it was picked up and reported on this Forum in a previous News item