Practitioners hit back at LCD 'slur'

LEGAL Aid lawyers have attacked parts of the Lord Chancellor's legal aid Green Paper as a “grossly unfair slur” on solicitors' integrity.

In its response to the reform blueprint, the Legal Aid Practitioners' Group (LAPG) smarts at what it claims is the impression in the Green Paper “of solicitors doing shoddy work and artificially inducing demand for their own ends”.

But the LAPG has joined the Legal Action Group, which has also submitted its response, in acknowledging the system is in need of reform.

They differ in their reaction to Lord Mackay's plans, with the LAG recognising that many of its former criticisms of legal aid have been taken on board.

The LAPG comes out firmly against exclusive cash limited block contracts for legal aid work claiming the scheme will be too inflexible.

It says the current fixed fee system for criminal work should be extended instead.

LAPG co-chair Jon Lloyd said the Government's plans would force solicitors to cut corners to save money.

“Firms which do not realise this are likely to face severe financial difficulties,” he added.

The LAG, however, says the plans could work as long as the Government does not employ a “gung ho” approach to reform. Director Roger Smith said the Green Paper could improve services or be a total disaster depending on the Government's attitude to practical problems.