THE JOINT leaders of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group have called on the Law Society to seize back the quality initiative by introducing more specialist panels and pushing ahead with quality accreditation.
In a message to their group, co-chairs Jon Lloyd and Bill Montague have accused the profession of being “too slow off the mark in the late 1980s to recognise the quality agenda that was developing”.
They say one certainty of legal aid reforms, whether they be the product of Labour or Tory governments, is that they will discriminate in favour of suppliers who meet defined quality standards.
“Against this background, it is essential the Law Society asserts the profession's responsibility for setting professional standards on competence and quality.”
In the call for action, outlined in the latest edition of the LAPG journal Legal Aid News, Lloyd and Montague advocate more specialist panels, beginning with family law, and the pressing ahead of the Practice Management Standards accreditation scheme.
The PMS scheme was approved by the Law Society Council in summer just before the newly elected Law Society president Martin Mears took office.
He opposed the scheme and described it variously as “banal”, “bureaucratic” and “absurd”, fuelling fears in the group that it may be put on the backburner under the new regime at Chancery Lane.
But Alison Gibbons, of the Law Society's policy team, said staff were busily working to meet the timetable which should see the first accreditation certificates issued at the end of next year.