DLA Piper could not sign the Law Society’s open letter to the Lord Chancellor over legal aid reforms as it handles £2.4m worth of legal aid work annually – but will have to ditch the practice if the reforms come in.
Regulatory head Neil Gerrard said a small number of corporate crime clients each year were publicly funded, and that by using legal aid instead of working pro bono more clients could be helped.
“If Carter’s reforms come in as currently proposed, I can’t see how we can possibly do legal aid. I think it’s a travesty of justice,” Gerrard said.
DLA Piper felt it should not join the 28 commercial firms signing the letter because the signatories state “we do not undertake any legal aid work”, although Gerrard said that the firm supports the campaign.
Meanwhile, an Allen & Overy spokesperson said one of the reasons A&O did not sign the letter was that senior partner Guy Beringer worked with Lord Carter of Coles on the review of legal aid procurement.
But several other firms in the top 10 did not sign – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Slaughter and May and Simmons & Simmons. By contrast Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith and Lovells put their names to the letter.
Freshfields litigation partner Paul Lomas told The Lawyer his firm preferred to send its own letter to Lord Falconer.
“We want to make it a little more constructive,” said Lomas.