The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has started to notify firms of the outcome of their tender applications for family, housing and debt, immigration and asylum and housing possession court duty scheme contracts. The contracts will start in April 2013 and unsuccessful bidders will be notified first.
The response to the legal contracts tender shows that many firms still wish to be part of the legal aid scheme. However, the way contracts have been allocated leads to serious concerns about the potential impact on the financial health of firms, particularly in asylum, but also in housing and family. Some firms are being allocated significantly less work than they need to be economically viable. Some firms – good providers - might even fail as a result.
We flagged this risk to the LSC at an early stage in the process - it is one of the major reasons why we argued against allocation by matter starts. We urged the LSC to instead issue licence contracts which would have enabled good firms to undertake as much work as they could attract.
A Law Society spokesperson said:
'The current system forces firms to refer clients who want to instruct them, and whom the government is prepared to fund, to firms that are less successful in attracting clients, sometimes because they are not of such good quality.
'How can that be acceptable within a system where the government demands that firms act in a more businesslike fashion? These artificial caps on the work good firms can do operate to the detriment of clients, firms and the LSC itself, and for no countervailing benefit.'
The LSC has published an FAQ document answering many common queries.
Read the FAQ document
Law Society support
If you are concerned about the impact of the tender outcome on your firm, please let us know so we can get a clear picture of the scale of the problem. While we will not be able to provide individual assistance, the information will help us to identify any scope there may be for pursuing issues at a high level with the LSC.
If you require individual assistance, you may wish to consider speaking to one of the specialist consultants in the legal aid field.
View a list of consultants