LAA – verification of bids in time for the self-imposed deadline of 25th May

The CLSA is concerned about the announcement on 11th May from the LAA that appears to suggest that some firms who have bid to carry out criminal legal aid work from October may have to miss out on at least 3 months of work if the Legal Aid Agency are unable to verify their bids in time for their self-imposed deadline of 25th May.

In the last decade almost 40% of firms have left Legal Aid. In vast swathes of the country there are already too few duty solictors to represent those at the police station and in court, and any further loss of duty solicitors could mean people being deprived acess to legal advice and delay justice for victims and those facing charges.

The government’s own recent independant review suggested a profession at breaking point. This latest announcement will serve to drive more firms away from legal aid work and many will not survive having no duty solicitor work for 3 months whilst the LAA process applications.

If the LAA announcement was meant to reassure firms, none of whom have yet heard if they have been successful, it has not and is causing sleepless nights for solicitors worried if they have a future in legal aid.

We would urge the LAA to clarify immediately what is being suggested. It cannot be right that firms who have submitted timely, compliant bids are at risk simply because the LAA have not got round to verifying their bids. Where there are minor technical issues, given the falling numbers of firms, the LAA is encouraged to work with firms to rectify those issues quickly and provide some certainty. If this means delaying the 25th May deadline, then this must be done urgently.