Legal Aid

Asian lawyers cast doubt on consortia plan for legal aid

PUBLISHED February 24, 2006

Lord Carter?s plan for small firms to form consortia to bid for criminal legal aid contracts was slammed as ?totally unrealistic? by Asian lawyers this week.

Sundeep Bhatia, committee member of the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL), said there were ?a hundred and one problems? with the ?ill thought-out? idea.

He said it was unlikely that in a consortia of ten firms, for example, all ten would come up to the standard of paperwork required by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). He added that anecdotal evidence from SAL members suggested that administrative and financial difficulties would make it ?almost impossible? to form bidding consortia.

Mr Bhatia said there was a ?sense of depression and doom? among his members, who felt that the proposals were a ?particular attack on their community?. LSC figures show that 46% of small criminal law firms in London are controlled by ethnic minority lawyers.

Last week, Lord Carter said small firms would be offered support to form consortia to win contracts, which will be awarded according to capacity.