Sunday, February 19, 2006

The legal aid disaster

I can remember, back in the early to mid 1990s when legal aid 'franchising' first came in, we were all told by 'them' that the changes were just to make things better for the firms who got the franchises. It was not going to result in lower fees, and we were certainly never going to have firms actually bidding against each other to bring the price down, oh no, no, no, no, no. It would all be better for the profession, better for the client.

Well I now read in the legal press that lawyers who do criminal defence work will be unable to get work at all if they continue to work as an independent 'sole practitioner', they will have to join up with one of a limited number of large firms who will be able to work more efficiently with 'economies of scale'. So not a lot of choice for the client there then.

In fact, dear reader, most lawyers have been leaving the legal aid scheme in droves because they simply don't see the point in such low paid time consuming work. A few public spirited solicitors struggle on, but they probably pay for this with stress related illnesses and the spectre of bankruptcy always before them.

We saw the writing on the wall in 1999 and pulled out. In the extra time gained by being released from all that form filling, I was able to set up and launch my online service Landlord-Law.

The real losers from all this are the public, though they little realise it until they try to find a legal aid firm. There is not much point in having legal rights, unless you can enforce them. And with the ever increasing complexity of the legal system, who can do this without the assistance of a trained lawyer?

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