Experts are being brought in by the Legal Aid Board (LAB) to review pay and conditions at the board, sparking fears of job cuts among the staff.
The board has commissioned independent consultants The Hay Group to compare how the pay and conditions it offers compare with the private sector.
An internal LAB memo announcing the move and issued on 29 September told staff to expect neither an increase nor a decrease in pay.
But a source at the board said many staff feared the review could lead to a pay freeze and possible redundancies among the 60 qualified solicitors working for the board.
Staff believe that solicitors processing legal aid claims in the LAB's 13 area offices may be vulnerable as the introduction of block legal aid contracts with firms will cut the need for staff to assess claims.
But a spokeswoman denied this, saying legal aid reforms would not “change or diminish the need for expertise in decision-making”.
She added: “We see no reason at this time why the number of solicitors we employ will decrease – it is more likely we will employ more qualified solicitors to help deliver the reform programme.”
Legal Aid Practitioners Group chair Richard Miller warned that the LAB would be “in danger of making a false economy” if it decided to cut the number of solicitors working for it as this could increase the number of wrong decisions on claims.