Overwhelming support for approved representatives in Hickmans and LAB battle>

London firm Hickman & Rose says it has received “overwhelming support” for its fight against the suspension of approved representatives from the local duty solicitor scheme.

In June this year the firm was granted leave to judicially review a decision taken by the Legal Aid Board and its committees to suspend the use of approved representatives on the City of London Duty Solicitor Scheme during rota periods. LAB is contesting the issue and has served affidavits.

The Board argues that it had no obligation to seek the views of local duty solicitors before changing the duty solicitor arrangements.

But a ballot of the 68 members of the City of London Local Duty Solicitor Committee, conducted by Hickman & Rose, revealed dissatisfaction with the decision to suspend the use of representatives.

All 50 respondents said they wished to be consulted before any change to the scheme was made and 49 said had they been consulted they would have opposed the suspension.

Partner Jane Hickman said the dispute was about the proper and efficient delivery of legal services. “It is now the case that all matters, however minor the offence, must be dealt with by the duty solicitor. This is not the most efficient use of our personnel and has serious consequences.”

The firm said it hoped that the committee would take note of the “overwhelming support” that it had received in its ballot and reverse the earlier decision to suspend the use of approved representatives.

It is understood that the LAB Regional Committee will discuss the matter fully when it next meets on 3 December. The judicial review hearing is expected to take place early next year.