Six ways the government can act to protect justice – budget submission
Ahead of the spring budget 2023, here are the measures and recommendations we’ve submitted to the UK government on how it can protect the foundations of our justice system.
Our recommendations will help to:
- maintain UK legal services’ globally leading position
- secure the sustainability of our justice system
- unleash the legal services sector to help level up the country
- enhance skills across the UK, and
- provide access to justice
1. Secure the sustainability of criminal legal aid
The government must meet the shortfall of around £30m in criminal legal aid investment to sustain the system while wider reforms take place over the next two years.
Without proper funding, there will be no criminal legal aid system.
2. Support civil legal aid
The government should provide an emergency injection of investment to all civil legal aid rates to ensure the sustainability of the system while the civil legal aid review takes place.
Without immediate investment, the number of firms starting new civil legal aid matters could drop by a third by 2025.
3. Restore civil legal aid for early advice from a lawyer
Restoration of legal aid for early advice in housing, debt, welfare benefits and family law is crucial to ensuring people can resolve problems in these areas before they escalate.
Otherwise the court backlogs will continue to grow.
4. Support our courts to be world leading
It’s essential that the government supports the courts to address repair and maintenance issues so they can be run at their full capacity to resolve the backlog in cases.
This should also include funding for administrative staff and judges.
5. Support the legal sector to enhance skills
The UK is facing a skills gap of around 3 million technology jobs by 2025, and approximately 7,000 of these are specifically in the legal sector, according to data from Microsoft Data Science.
To help tackle this skills gap, small and medium-sized (SME) law firms should be included in the National Retraining Scheme.
Firms should also be allowed to spend apprenticeship levy funds on lawtech seats, lawtech training and training in secondary specialisations to boost innovation and productivity.
6. Harnessing digital productivity
The UK is a hub of lawtech and a global innovator, but we face competition from across the world.
Other jurisdictions are investing heavily in lawtech, and the UK risks being overtaken.
Many of the law firms working in this space are small and medium-sized, which means they often do not have the resources their larger counterparts can draw upon to invest in new technologies and drive productivity.
The government should/must create a grant scheme to support SME law firms with the costs of adopting productivity boosting lawtech, modelled on Singapore’s Tech-celerate for Law scheme.