Law Society argues for pause in legal aid reforms
The Law Society is lobbying the Government hard to think again about the extensive planned cuts to legal aid, which would potentially remove access to justice for as many as 500,000 cases a year. The Government seems intent on rushing through these measures rapidly and part of the Law Society “beef” is that there has been no proper consultation and that this is vital as the type of cases which would be affected involve fundamental legal rights in areas such as divorce, maintenance for children and medical negligence.
Other arguments put forward by the Law Society are that the Government thinking that significant sums will be saved by reducing legal aid is flawed and that such costs will simply reappear in different areas, such as there will be more litigants in person which will create delays and inefficiencies in court process and increase court costs and that there will also be a “double whammy” in that if legal aid is reduced more claimants will look for no win no fee agreements, and the Government is planning to only allow a claimant’s legal costs on success to come out any award and not be payable by the opponent as a success fee. This will again reduce access to justice the Law Society claims.
The UK’s legal industry, with an annual turnover of £18bn, could be severely damaged, the society claims. It has offered the government an alternative programme for saving £384m through reducing unnecessary court hearings and other efficiencies.
The Law Society has received criticism from some solicitors in the past for either not reacting or reacting too late to changes which affect solicitors. The Law Society seems to have listened to this and has gone as far as commencing a media campaign under the banner “Sound Off for Justice”. These “adverts” are appearing on taxis around London now.