LAB faces litigation over block contracting

A PROMINENT member of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) has predicted an onslaught of litigation between practices and the Legal Aid Board (LAB), once block contracting comes into place.

Gordon Wignall, of London chambers 1 Dr Johnson's Buildings, warned an LAPG seminar last week which was held jointly with his chambers that firms bidding for block contracts may follow the lead of practices involved in multi-party actions in seeking redress for 'lost business' through the courts.

This has happened on at least two occasions an unreported case in 1995 and the Gulf War veterans' litigation in which Manchester firm Donn & Co judicially reviewed the LAB in 1996 after it granted contracts to a rival consortium of firms.

According to Wignall, who is also a member of the LAPG's executive committee, the fewer the contracts the more likely it is that litigation will take place, either in the form of judicial review or contractual claims, as solicitors struggle to maintain their livelihoods.

Wignall claimed: 'Tendering of contracts involving large amounts of money will lead to firms engaging in cut-throat business and, in future, solicitors who want to engage in block contracting must be prepared to engage in litigation.'

Legal Action Group head of policy Vicki Chapman agreed that there was 'a real danger' of litigation between firms and the LAB over the granting of contracts.