Potential Litigation Over Legal Aid Cuts in the UK

Last week we wrote about the United Kingdom’s Legal Services Commission’s (LSC) plans to implement significant cuts to its current budget for legal aid.  The budget cuts are expected to cause the number of family law firms offering legal aid to fall from 2,400 to 1,300.

In response, The Law Society sent a pre-action protocol letter to the LSC, challenging the lawfulness of the LSC’s decision to proceed with the reduction in legal aid contracts.  The Law Society’s president, Linda Lee, expressed that despite the “difficulty taking action may cause” for firms that were successful in obtaining legal aid contracts who may have been “planning to expand their businesses either by volume, new work type, or a new geographic location” the decision to challenge the cuts was necessary and rooted in the profession’s duty to public interest.

“As a profession we accept and are proud of an ethical code that is higher than pure commercial considerations. We have a duty to protect the public interest. A reduction in access to justice cannot be in the public interest particularly when it affects the most vulnerable people in society, those who are seeking to establish their basic rights.”

The LSC expressed its disappointment regarding The Law Society’s actions.  The Commission believes that “further uncertainty will have a far greater destabilising effect on the availability of family legal aid than allowing the tender to take its course. ”

President Lee emphasized that,

“The Law Society remains ready and willing to talk with the Legal Services Commission and the Ministry of Justice to avoid litigation and urgently resolve these issues,” but “if an agreement cannot be reached, then [The Law Society] will bring the proceedings before the High Court.”

To read more on The Law Society’s position.

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