Select Committee report on legal aid is right on the money

01 May 2007

The Constitutional Affairs Committee’s report into legal aid reform is right on the money when it calls for a halt to the transitional arrangements for fixed fees, and a rethink together with proper piloting of competitive tendering.

“The select committee is right to point out the risks in introducing untested and unpiloted reforms. The legal aid scheme does need reform - the present system works for no one – the client, the lawyer, the taxpayer or the Commission.”

“But changes to legal aid should have been developed with buy-in from consumers and suppliers – they have not been. These widely unpopular proposals are being imposed on reluctant suppliers and we don’t believe they will work in their present form,” said David Emmerson, Chair of Resolution’s legal aid committee.

“The potential of these rushed reforms to cause substantial and long term damage to legal aid firms has been grossly underestimated. If the Commission has got it wrong legal aid lawyers will not be able to continue providing services and the consequences to clients will be devastating.

“Once legal aid lawyers are lost to the system they won’t return and all indications are that there is no younger generation of legal aid lawyers waiting in the wings,” said Mr Emmerson.

The number of family legal aid practices has already suffered a marked decline from 4,500 in 2000 to 2,800 in 2006. The profile of Resolution’s members doing family legal aid shows that the majority are at the older end of the spectrum: 53% of members doing legal aid work are 15 years or more qualified and only 9% are less than 5 years qualified.

“The planned reforms to legal aid are far reaching, their potential impact is extensive and the timetable for their consultation and implementation should reflect this,” said David Emmerson.

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:
David Emmerson
Resolution, Chair of Legal Aid Committee
Mobile: 07976 702597
Office: 0208 514 9000

Teresa Richardson
Resolution, Head of Communications
Mobile: 07894 981020
Direct line: 020 7357 9215