The Law Society has outlined its initial views on the proposals contained in the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ) consultation on reforms to the Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS). This note is intended to assist members in drafting their own responses to the consultation.
The MoJ consultation follows discussions with the Bar Council and Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which resulted in the MoJ agreeing to put an additional £15m into the AGFS.
The Society is undertaking a detailed analysis of the data provided by the MoJ. Our initial assessment is that it is not clear whether the proposals do in fact amount to a £15m increase. We also have some concerns regarding the distribution of any additional expenditure.
Two key points to note:
- the headline expenditure figures include VAT
- the actual value of the proposed package to the profession is highly dependent on assumptions about 'case mix', which varies considerably from year to year
Table 22 on page 35 of the MoJ's impact assessment shows that the value of these proposals to advocates amounts to £15m (inclusive of VAT) when 2016-17 case mix information is used. However, this drops to £8.6m when 2017-18 data is used.
Our initial assessment shows that a disproportionate amount of the additional expenditure will go to QCs, rather than targeting the crisis among junior advocates.
We believe that this is the wrong priority to achieve the policy aim of mitigating the current recruitment crisis among both barristers and solicitors.
The Law Society encourages members to respond to the consultation, which closes on 28 September 2018.