I specialise in privately and publicly funded criminal litigation. Some LAA cases are uneconomic and may undermine my firm’s financial viability. I’m on the duty rota scheme and don’t want to give up publicly funded litigation. Can I refuse some LAA cases?
The Standard Crime Contract 2017 enables providers to offer publicly funded criminal defence services in addition to those which must be provided by those firms that have taken up duty solicitor obligations.
Under the provisions of the contract, only duty work is obligatory, and all other work may be refused on grounds that it’s uneconomic.
There’s no mandatory obligation that requires a contract holder to offer to undertake work under the legal aid scheme provided that instructions are rejected on an appropriate basis.
The rejection of instructions on the basis that the work is not properly remunerated or cannot be properly resourced given the funding available under the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) scheme is compliant with the principles set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
It’s a matter for you to establish the nature of the work that’s not adequately remunerated under the contract. It’s likely that such an assessment will vary according to the location and size of your firm.
For further guidance on helping to identify circumstances which may warrant a refusal to undertake criminal LAA work, see our practice note on rejecting un-remunerative publicly funded criminal work.