Legal Aid

Carter worries solicitors

PUBLISHED July 20, 2006

REACTION: junior bar sees benefits to reforms, but many solicitors are uneasy about proposals

Richard Miller, Legal Aid Practitioners Group Director: ?Fixed fees might work in a ?steady state? environment. The criminal justice system is not, and should not be, in a steady state. Lord Carter?s premise underpinning his proposals is dependent on a precondition that cannot be met. The probable outcome of using fixed fees within a wider system that is not fixed is a serious reduction in the quality of service to clients.?

Ian Kelcey, chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association: ?Imposing a market economy is a leap in the dark? In the police station and before the courts, it may well result in an imbalance in favour of the state.?

Robert Brown, executive officer of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association: ?I hope that one part of the profession has not had a fairer deal than the other. Solicitors have not had a real pay increase since 1993. If more money is to be made by advocacy because, solicitors will take that in-house and send less to the bar.?

Jane Hickman, partner at Hickman & Rose: ?Fixed fees in the police station mean that obstructive police can choose to keep you waiting for hours, knowing your fee is slipping away. The more combative you may rightly be on behalf of your clients, the more likely you are to be punished by the police.?

Sailesh Mehta, chairman of the Society of Asian Lawyers: ?Lord Carter says this is a market-based approach, but he wants to fix the market ? by getting rid of a large number of law firms ? in a way that will affect ethnic minority firms
the most.?

Laura Jones, chairwoman of the Young Legal Aid Lawyers group: ?The report simply envisages an even tighter regime with no plan as to how to ensure a flow of new entrants into the profession.?

Lynton Orrett, spokesman for the Black Solicitors Network: ?The majority of small firms in London are black and ethnic minority firms, and a lot of them rely on clients outside their area. Firms may be awarded contracts to start off with, but their profitability will go down.?

Tom Little, chairman of the Young Barristers? Committee: ?After ten years of frozen pay for the junior bar, it is a relief that Lord Carter has recommended long overdue increases in remuneration.?

Timothy Dutton QC, leader of the South Eastern Circuit: ?Lord Carter used the phrase ?fair but not generous? ? I would use the phrase ?just adequate? ? but it will be up to the profession to determine. We need to be careful that a ?just adequate? system does not become even more inadequate.?