Post by Colin Henderson on Feb 24, 2016 10:49:59 GMT
And for completeness here are last year's firms whose contracts were terminated or otherwise ended by the LAA, some of which are mentioned earlier in this thread:
Alexander Solicitors - Cambridge Mackesys - London Arthur Smith - Manchester Steele Ford & Newton - Burnley David Scourfield - Newcastle DW Law - London Gordon Young Law - Cambridge Valleys Law - Cardiff
Post by Colin Henderson on May 23, 2016 17:17:39 GMT
I often see clients whose lives are blighted by being unable to resolve private children and family disputes now that legal aid has been abolished. One good piece of work that CitA have done recently is a report which highlighted the toll that representing yourself takes.
"The family courts are vital in helping people resolve a range of issues. However, the way people use them is changing. Since funding for legal aid was reduced in 2013, there has been an increase in the number of people going to the family courts without a lawyer (as a ‘litigant in person’). Two-thirds of our advisers report an increase in the number of people they see going to court without representation since 2013.
Although some people find the experience of self-representation positive, the majority found self representing difficult, time consuming and emotionally draining. As well as a bad experience for court users, it also means litigants in person achieve worse outcomes compared with their represented counterparts.
Many firms quietly wound down their family departments after LASPO. Here is just one example - there are dozens - of a firm who tried to make their family department work for 3 years post LASPO but has finally succumbed last month:
Fairweathers closes its Family Department
It is with regret that we announce the closure of our Family Department today. The Department was set up, from scratch, in August 2007, a little over a year after Fairweathers was first established.
It had a very clear brief then to meet a huge need for legally aided representation and we developed a very busy and successful Department employing, at one point, 5 fee earners. In recent times, however, the Department has been hit by the large scale withdrawal of legal aid and has now reached the point of not being financially viable. Happily, our Head of Department, Gemma Duckworth, has found a new position with Holden and Co of Ashford and we shall be referring all existing clients and future enquiries to her at the new firm
Post by Colin Henderson on Jul 10, 2016 9:53:55 GMT
There is never a good excuse for misusing client's money, but here's a very sad example of a legal aid solicitor cracking under the strain, losing his practice, his career and his good name: A sole practitioner who used client money to pay office expenses after seeing profits dry up has been struck off the roll.
Andrew Philip Thomas, who ran clinical negligence specialist Andrews Solicitors in Bridgend, said his firm started to struggle when legal aid funding was pulled in 2013. New cases had to be run on a conditional fee agreement or on a fixed fee, and clients were reluctant to pay up-front for disbursement costs.
In late 2014, the software used for time recording and accounts completely crashed and the firm’s IT provider could not recover the information. Client ledger information had to be put back into the system for each case. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that by March 2015 the firm had laid off all staff except for one fee-earner, but complex clinical negligence cases were coming to trial.
In December 2014, the firm received £25,000 interim damages for a client, but only £5,000 was sent to her and the remainder used to pay for office expenses. She had not known at the time Thomas had taken her money, although she did submit evidence to the tribunal in support of him and that he intended to pay the money back.
Thomas, who admitted five allegations, accepted the pressures facing his firm were no different from those facing other small firms. In mitigation, he argued the money was not spent on the ‘high life or frivolities’ but was put to paying staff for two months and rent for a month.
Thomas regretted his actions, which have had a ‘devastating consequence on his life, his relationship and professional career’. But he asked to be allowed to practise, as he wanted to act on behalf of clients in some capacity and, at the age of 55, ‘still had 10 years during which he could make a significant contribution’.
The tribunal said Thomas’ firm lacked accounts and went through ‘financial chaos’ over a period of time. It added:
‘[Thomas] had faced what could almost be described as a perfect storm. He had built up his firm into a particular position and then changes to legal aid had altered his work profile radically and he saw a downturn in work.This combined with a doubling of his rent led to a situation where his firm was under significant financial pressure. This was not unique to this firm but [Thomas] could not cope with the series of problems impacting on his business. He did not approach the bank or take any alternative steps. Instead he took the decision to plunder the client account which can never be acceptable.’
The tribunal said anything other than a strike-off would have a detrimental impact on the public’s confidence in the legal profession and send the wrong message to other solicitors. As well as being struck off, Thomas was also ordered to pay £11,000 in prosecution costs.
Post by Colin Henderson on Aug 15, 2016 13:38:37 GMT
The next entry in the roll-call is well known to Daily Mail readers, but perhaps less to so to ilegal readers.
Public Interest Lawyers were a small but high-profile firm which took on cases against the State, e.g. actions against police.
They became notorious for the many cases they fought arising out of alleged breaches of human rights/Geneva Convention by UK forces during the Iraq war. The LAA argued it was cases like these - with legal aid granted to Iraqis - that necessitated the Legal Aid residence test which was declared illegal recently by the Supreme Court.
There is a lot of background to this and of course the prosecution of PIL, Phil Shiner and Leigh Day by the SRA, their vilification by the press all raise worrying issues of state control, but for now here is the brief Gazette report:
"Controversial Birmingham and London firm Public Interest Lawyers is to close, according to press reports this morning. The firm, founded by Phil Shiner in 1999, is one of two under investigation for its activities in mounting claims against UK service personnel over alleged atrocities in Iraq.
The Daily Mail reported this morning that in a document submitted to the High Court this month it asked judges to make an order that it had ceased to act for 187 Iraqi claimants because of its 'permanent closure'. The Gazette has approached Public Interest Lawyers for comment.
At the beginning of this month, the Legal Aid Agency announced it had terminated its contract with Public Interest Lawyers, saying the firm had breached contractual requirements.
The Mail reported the closure as a 'victory', accusing Shiner of 'relentlessly hounding' British troops. It quotes the defence secretary, Michael Fallon as saying: 'This is the right outcome for our armed forces. For too long, we've seen our legal system abused to impugn them falsely. We are now seeing progress and we will be announcing further measures to stamp out this practice.'
'We made a manifesto commitment to addressing these types of spurious claims that companies like PIL are pursuing,' a spokesman for the prime minister told the Guardian. 'The closure of PIL shows that we are making progress on that, tackling these types of firms head-on to make sure we get the right outcome for our armed forces who show such bravery in the most difficult of circumstances.'