Post by Patrick Torsney on Aug 2, 2012 10:31:47 GMT
We may as well start discussing this now. Just to kick things off, here is an article written by Richard Miller of the Law Society. Whilst not conclusive, it has some interesting points and is food for thought (link to complete piece after this excerpt):
I am sure we would all be keen to hear what plans you have for your own work at the end of this Contract - feel free to reply
Run-off work under the current legal aid contracts
Tuesday 31 July 2012
As you know, a number of categories of law will be coming out of scope of legal aid contracts in April 2013. The contract permits you to undertake run-off work, completing the cases for your existing clients. If you cease to undertake this work, any legal aid certificates you hold can be transferred to another firm. But at the controlled work level, the position is different. If a client's legal help or controlled legal representation case has not been completed, that client will, on the face of it, not be able to transfer to another firm, because no firm will be able to start a new matter in these categories of law after April 2013.
This scenario gives rise to questions of professional conduct and contract law as between your client and your firm, as well as issues under the legal aid contract. It is vital that you consider these issues now, so that you can bear them in mind both in thinking about what clients you intend to take on before April 2013 and in deciding what you do after that date. You may also wish to adapt your client care letter now in order to warn clients that if a matter is commenced on legal help now, and would, but for the cuts, progress to a full legal aid certificate after April 2013, there will be no legal aid funding for that work in the future.
Let us look first at the retainer with the client. Underwood Son and Piper v Lewis  2 QB 306 set a precedent that, while a solicitor is instructed in a case, they must act until the retainer has been completed. However, a solicitor may terminate the retainer before the end on reasonable notice and if they have reasonable grounds for refusing to act further.
If your position is that you are intending voluntarily to shut down the relevant department in April 2013, there is a compelling argument that this would not be reasonable grounds for terminating the retainer. You may still have an obligation to the client to complete the case. Moreover, there is also a strong argument that at the very least, reasonable notice in that scenario must be such that the client would have an opportunity prior to 31 March 2013 to find another provider. Indeed, good practice would probably be to ensure that you are letting clients know now what the position will be. You may even want to consider whether you should take on new clients at all, if their cases are likely to continue beyond the date at which you intend to shut down the department.