Firms should treat the withdrawal of barristers from very high cost cases (VHCCs) in protest over fee cuts like any other change of legal team, the Law Society has today advised.
The advice to criminal solicitors was issued in preparation for the likelihood of many senior barristers not continuing with VHCC cases after fee changes implementing 30% cuts come in.
The Society reminds firms that they have contractual duties to the Legal Aid Agency under the code of conduct where counsel ceases to act. 'If such action leaves a firm without an advocate for a matter, firms should treat it like any other case where there is a change of legal team.'
Solicitors are reminded of their duty to inform the Legal Aid Agency and of their duties to their client and to the court.
Solicitor advocates must continue to act in accordance with their duties to the client and the court, but the Society says the unavailability of counsel does not create a contractual obligation on a solicitor-advocate to take over the barrister's responsibility.