Lawyers hit out at LAB's plan for 'nightmarish' block contracts

LEGAL aid solicitors have attacked Legal Aid Board proposals for “short term” block contracts, claiming they would have a destabilising effect on firms.

The Legal Aid Practitioners Group has reacted to the publication of the board's response to Lord Mackay's Green Paper by homing in on the suggestion that contracts should last just two years under a new contractual legal aid regime.

The group says it will be impossible for legal aid firms labouring under such short-term contracts to plan their businesses.

The organisation has raised its concerns directly with officials from the LAB and the Lord Chancellor's Department in recent meetings with both bodies.

Group co-chair Bill Montague said both departments thought the Green Paper was still very green.

But he added: “We are working on the assumption that the Government is going to be committed to imposing some form of cash limiting regime.”

The board's response to the consultation paper says initial contracts should be for three years.

It says subsequent contracts should be renewed every two years on a rolling programme.

Montague said that the board's bid to flesh out the proposals in the Lord Chancellor's Green Paper had brought home precisely how nightmarish block contracts would be if they were ever implemented.

He said that firms which were labouring under the new two-year contracts would find long-term business planning impossible.

“It would have a tremendous destabilising effect,” added Montague.