Law Soc jumps gun on legal aid rates

THE LAW Society has earned itself a rebuke for “pre-empting” by several days the Lord Chancellor's announcement of new legal aid rates for law firms.

Officials at the Lord Chancellor's Department were caught off guard last week when the Law Society announced the results of the latest legal aid pay negotiations several days early.

Lord Mackay had been planning to announce the new rates officially on Monday this week, when he was also due to lay the new regulations before Parliament.

But on Wednesday last week the society did the job for him when it unveiled the new rates, which it called disappointing.

“We are surprised that the Law Society has pre-empted the Lord Chancellor's announcement of his proposals,” said an LCD spokesman.

But a Law Society spokes-man expressed surprise at the LCD's stance and said there had been no intention to leak information. “We were under the impression that there was an agreement that it would be alright to reveal the figures.”

The new rates make grim reading for firms without franchises whose remuneration rate increases are around half those awarded to franchised rivals.

The rate for criminal and matrimonial work will be increased by 3 per cent for franchised firms, but by only 1.5 per cent for those firms without a franchise.

Duty solicitors have come out the best from this latest pay round with a 3.5 per cent award for franchised firms. Franchised firms will also receive more generous payments on account along with other cash flow benefits.