LAB faces duty solicitor battle

THREE London firms are issuing judicial review proceedings against the Legal Aid Board (LAB) in a dispute over the use of non-solicitors on a duty solicitor scheme.

An application for leave will be made in writing soon.

Hickman & Rose, Steven Fidler & Co and Hughmans are taking action after a decision by the City of London Local Duty Solicitor Committee to stop duty solicitors delegating night-time and weekend work to non-solicitor representatives.

Jane Hickman, Hickman & Rose senior partner, alleged the change was not in the public interest.

“The motivation is to make the work for solicitors go a bit further,” she alleged.

She said the current system, whereby experienced and trained representatives are permitted to give police station advice for non-serious crimes, worked well.

“You really don't need senior staff out at nights advising shoplifters. Their place is in the office, managing the technology, the staff and the serious cases,” she said.

Russell Wallman, Law Society head of professional policy, said there was a principle that duty solicitor work should only be done by solicitors except where there were too few to man the scheme.

Referring to the joint Law Society-LAB accreditation scheme for unqualified advisers, he added: “The question is whether it is right to ban representatives who have been through the accreditation process.”

Julian Hopley, of Julian J Hopley & Co, chair of the committee, refused to comment. The LAB said it was too early to comment.