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THE LAW Society is setting up a system for on-going consultation with franchise-holders as practitioners debate whether or not to set up a break-away association.
Birmingham solicitor Graham McGrath is floating the idea of an independent organisation to represent the interests of franchised firms.
"Clearly the interests of those who are not franchised may be very different from those who are franchised," says McGrath, whose firm McGrath & Co has been awarded contracts in seven areas.
"I cannot see how the Law Society can hold both sides together in the long term," he adds.
McGrath, a key player in the Legal Aid Board's franchise pilot scheme, is looking to gauge reaction to his idea among fellow franchise-holders before taking it further.
But Russell Wallman, the society's head of professional policy, denies any conflict of interest. He says the society will continue to work to get "the best arrangements for practitioners across the board".
In addition, the society will then try to obtain the best incentives for franchise-holders, he says.
"If franchise-holders want some kind of support group similar to other special interest groups that is a matter entirely for them, but what we have got to ensure is that we have good arrangements in place ourselves for hearing their views," Wallman adds.
The society is following up the council's call in July for on-going consultation with franchise-holders, by setting out proposals for a "franchising users group". It is also likely that a national franchising forum will be organised later this year for delegates selected by the existing network of franchise co-ordinators.
Brian Harvey, policy officer with the board, confirms the fact that about half of the contracts awarded on 1 August have been signed and returned so far.
The board has received about 30 new applications, but more are expected with the end of the holiday season.