Bar Council launches legal aid probe

The Bar Council has launched a working party to probe the impact on the bar from competitive tendering and ‘one case one fee’ for legal aid work.

The move was announced by Bar Council chair Geoffrey Vos QC at the representative’s body’s AGM in London on Saturday (16 June).

The Government has signalled its intention to introduce ‘one case one fee’ and price competitive tendering for criminal and family legal aid work from October 2008.

At the AGM Vos said that the bar will not be in a position to compete on a level playing field with solicitors for the blocks of cases on offer as no mechanisms can be put in place by that time to enable such competition to take place.

“Moreover, the market will not have reached a steady state in time for competition to be introduced in October 2008,” said Vos. “The market, such as it is, will be in a state of flux. Suppliers will be leaving the market, there may be new entrants and no clear pattern to the business of providing litigation services on graduated fees will have emerged.”

Vos said such a scenario would make the introduction of “competition for cases at such a stage will create chaos” as “many suppliers will be forced out of the market for good”.

To combat these fears the Bar Council has set up a high-powered working group to examine the issues, which will be headed by Desmond Browne QC of 5 Raymond Buildings and will report by October 2007.