Mears rethinks aid response

MARTIN Mears says he will redraft the Law Society's response to the legal aid Green Paper shifting the attack away from cash limiting and cutting out the rhetoric.

Mears, who has cancelled a presidential trip to Chicago in order to work on the response to the Green Paper, wants to point the Law Society's guns at the “wholly unworkable” plans to introduce competitive tendering for block contracts.

But he adds that the society should recognise the Lord Chancellor's desire to rationalise the system and restrict opposition to the mechanism he proposes to achieve it.

“We don't need to mount a full frontal assault on a central part of government policy,” he says.

Mears also believes that the Law Society's provisional response to the Green Paper is too rhetorical, suitable for rallying the troops but inappropriate as an official submission to the Government.

He does, however, say that he will be supporting Chancery Lane's 'Design for the future' proposals to streamline the existing legal aid system.

Legal Aid Practitioners Group co-chair Bill Montague says: “We feel that the provisional response struck pretty much the right note.

“We will continue to have grave reservations about cash limits and feel it should be tackled head-on.”

At its meeting just before Mears took office, the society's council agreed to oppose both block contracts and cash limiting and to work out an accreditation scheme for legal aid firms.

Members also accepted the legal aid payment differential that exists between franchised and non-franchised firms by agreeing to vote for similar pay rises for both groups next year.