Lawyers plot a boycott of contract plan

BIRMINGHAM lawyers are to debate how to launch a boycott of the Government's planned block contracting scheme.

The local law society's criminal law and magistrates court committee will put the issue of block contracting before a full council meeting on 30 October.

It resolved to bring the issue before the council after a meeting of the society and a group of 30 legal aid firms which are boycotting the Legal Aid Board's franchising scheme.

Leigh Mounce, of Eddowes Perry and Osbourne, who leads the franchising boycott, said a boycott of block contracting was “absolutely definite”. “Block contracting is going out of the window,” she said.

But Michael Morris, chair of society's criminal law and magistrates committee, refused to reveal its position. “There will be a vigorous discussion about block contracting. We are anxious to move things along.”

Malcolm Fowler, deputy vice-president of Birmingham law society, said block contracts in their proposed form were probably contrary to Law Society Practice Rules. He said Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester law societies, which recently met to discuss block contracts, were “singing from from the same hymn sheet”.

Russell Wallman, head of professional policy at the Law Society, said proposals for block contracting in the white paper raised serious problems of conflict of interest, particularly for criminal solicitors.