On razor's edge

That franchised firms got the lion's portion of the meagre pay-out in this year's criminal legal aid fees uplift brought understandable howls of fury. The even more unequal treatment for Green Form work rubbed salt in the wound.

The Lord Chancellor clearly decided to reward firms which franchised after criticisms that there was not sufficient in it for those taking the step. The system's paymaster is calling the tune and those who play it are going to benefit.

But the jury is still out as to whether franchising does result in extra competency and efficiency.

As long as this question remains unanswered, the Law Society is right to stick to its guns. But it has to be careful that it does not get its timimg wrong and prejudice firms who might wish to obtain franchises, if it has to bite the bullet of two-tier fees. Likewise it must ensure in the meantime that franchised firms remain within the fold.