Law Society ponders appeal over updated legal aid fees

Updated fixed fees for civil legal aid cases will be introduced as planned from October 2007 following a High Court judgment today (27 July).

Mr Justice Beatson rejected the Law Society’s attempt to stop the new fees being introduced through its judicial review of the unified contract.

The judge, however, did grant the right to appeal, which the Law Society is now considering.

Beatson J held that the contractual provision that enables the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to amend the unified contract in relation to fee levels and structures was lawful and not in breach of EU procurement rules.

However, the judge accepted the Law Society’s argument that it did not comply with the requirements relating to amendments to the technical specifications of the contract.

He held that changes to the contract should not be made if they would “alter the economic balance of the contract to the disadvantage of those who have entered into the unified contract”.

LSC chief executive Carolyn Regan welcomed the ruling. She said: “The legal aid reforms are specifically about maximising access to legal aid for the future. By achieving best value for money and rebalancing the overall budget to provide more funding for civil work we can continue to increase the number of people helped.”

Law Society president Andrew Holroyd said the judgment “underlines the shortcomings of the LSC’s approach to the reforms of the legal aid system.”

He added: “We hope that the LSC and the Government will now work with us to secure a sustainable future for access to justice through an extensive supplier base of dedicated professionals.”