Duty solicitor scheme set for shake-up in LAB review

Firms without legal aid franchises may be excluded from undertaking duty solicitor police station work as part of a major shake-up of the scheme planned for the summer.

The Legal Aid Board (LAB) is to embark on a three-month review of the scheme this week in response to claims from firms with criminal law franchises that they are not gaining enough extra work to compensate for the investment they ploughed into getting franchises.

In a statement, the LAB said it would be “analysing the current arrangements for police station duty solicitor rotas, including methods by which the market share of franchisees may be increased”.

But The Lawyer understands that one option would be to exclude firms without franchises from the scheme altogether.

The review was welcomed by Brian Craig, the business partner at Manchester criminal firm Tuckers. He called on the LAB to restrict membership of its duty solicitor schemes to firms which have franchises with it.

Tuckers is one of 80 firms negotiating to take part in a pilot scheme to test the block contracting of criminal advice and assistance.

Eventually only firms with contracts will be able to give duty solicitor advice.