Legal Aid

Bleak High Street

PUBLISHED January 26, 2007

I recently had a nightmare. I received a letter from the Law Society saying it may be unlawful for us to take combined action to prevent the destruction of the legal aid system. The next day, I learned that the Legal Complaints Service is actively drumming up complaints against solicitors ? and that it regards this as a good thing (see [2007] Gazette, 18 January, 1).

Then, the president of my professional representative body told me I must accept alternative business structures, before the issue has been properly and fully debated.

So that is that, I thought ? increased competition from externally owned law firms and the legal aid ?reforms? mean that ethical duties and independence from government are an illusion. I may as well take down my sign.

Then I woke up and realised my nightmare was real.

When will the Law Society (representation chief executive Des Hudson excepted) understand that its ineffective response over many years to ill-conceived government policies is one of the main reasons the high street branch of the profession ? the champion of the individual ? faces potential extinction?

I suggest that Law Society President Fiona Woolf and Vice-President Andrew Holroyd take note of the views of the former Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the Legal Aid Practitioners Association, the Sole Practitioners Association and the Legal Action Group and start to reflect them publicly before it is too late.

Stephen Mannering, Sheltons, Nottingham