Facts about the LAB

The Legal Aid Board employs 1,200 people in 13 area offices and a head office and accounts department in Gray's Inn Road, London.

The basic structure was inherited by the board from the Law Society, but there has been a massive shake-up of management systems and staff at the board since then.

In 1990 160 jobs at the board's head office were axed and all bill assessment procedures were handed over to the area offices.

There is no doubt that Orchard's efficiency drive created uncertainty and resentment among staff, and that this in turn will have fuelled the Law Society's talk of “internal dissension”.

Nobody, however, can deny the improvements in efficiency since the board took over legal aid. Last year the board dealt with 79 per cent of all civil applications in two weeks whereas the Law Society could only manage 50 per cent in six weeks.

Orchard lists the improvement as one of the board's three major achievements since it took over.

The other two are its franchising initiative and its pilot scheme to fund advice centre work through franchising.

He is clearly proud of franchising which he dubs a “resounding success”.