Saturday, August 12, 2006

All Change For Legal Aid

The Criminal Solicitor has a piece about the forthcoming changes to Legal Aid. The first of a series of reforms will see the means test reintroduced this Autumn. This test was abolished a few years ago because it cost more to collect than it yielded, and slowed up the progress of cases. I don't know what is supposed to be different this time round, but I have a nasty feeling that we shall once again get bogged down in the practical difficulties of getting reliable information about their means from the high proportion of our customers who have disorganised lifestyles and who live hand to mouth from one Giro to the next. How we are supposed to reconcile this with the need to get cases moving as soon as possible remains to be seen.

The Carter reforms to Legal Aid will have the effect of forcing smaller law firms to merge or to give up crimnal work altogether, as the Government intends to drive down costs by awarding blocks of work to large firms that can offer economies of scale. Our town, like most, has a couple of dominant firms on the High Street. The word is that the kind of rates that are likely to be paid in future may cause the partners in highly profitable corporate departments to consider withdrawing their firm from criminal work altogether.

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