LAG warning on back door legal aid cuts

The Legal Action Group (LAG) has warned the Government not to use its rights of audience proposals to cut legal aid via the back door.

The group has joined the Law Society in welcoming the proposals in its response to the Government's consultation paper. But Vicki Chapman, head of policy, said the Government should ensure legal aid is available for specialist rather than generalist advocates when they were needed.

The Law Society threw its weight behind the Government, branding the proposals “good news for clients”.

But the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers wants to retain elements of the current system – whereby solicitors have to do a set number of hours in the lower courts before moving to the higher courts to ensure quality.

It also wants barristers to follow the same regime and calls for them to undergo the same advocacy training.

In its response, the Bar Council says taxing masters should be made to cut fees paid to solicitor advocates if they exceed the fees of a barrister of the right experience. It also calls for legislation to outlaw so-called “tying in” arrangements whereby a solicitor would only act for a client on condition that the client used the firm's in-house advocates.