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The Law Society has written to the Lord Chancellor threatening judicial review against the Unified Legal Aid contract due to take effect next month.
In a letter to Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer dated 22 March and beginning “Dear Charlie,” Law Society Vice President Andrew Holroyd warns that the Society, “has received legal advice that, in offering the contractual terms they have, [the Legal Service Commission] has breached the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 in at least one key respect . . . which merits consideration by the courts”.
Holroyd claims that the society’s campaign to alter the contract has “been largely ignored by the Legal Services Commission” (LSC), and that “in the light of this and in the light of the further legal advice [the society] has now received, we have been left with no option but to consider bringing judicial review proceedings”.
The society says the LSC has two weeks to provide a “satisfactory response” to its letter or it will begin proceedings. A similar letter has also been sent to LSC chair Sir Michael Bichard.
The society says it has taken the measure in response to concern by legal aid firms at the prospect of operating under contracts which can be amended on as little as seven weeks notice, which “against this backdrop, doubt that they will be able to persuade their bankers to support them”.
In a separate announcement, legal aid firm Bindman & Partners has asked to join the judicial review as an interested party, and has rallied other firms to do the same “in order to actively to protect [their] position”.
The firm says it does not intend to sign the contract, arguing that “the terms of the contract are both opaque and unfair”.