Lawyers baulk at latest reform plans

Revised plans to reform family legal aid, due next month, look unlikely to quell opposition from solicitors who claim it will drive many of them out of business.

The Department for Consti­tutional Affairs is due to reconsult on proposals to replace hourly rates by fixed fees for lawyers in child care and parental separation cases, as part of large-scale reforms to curb the legal aid bill.

But Alistair MacDonald, co-chair of the Association of Lawyers for Chil­dren, which has been calling for rises in the proposed rates, said the DCA had signalled there would be no extra money for the family system.

He said: “The proposals are designed to prioritise productivity. We would continue to deprecate that approach – there needs to be a ring-fenced budget for family legal aid.”

A Law Society survey last August found 98 per cent of members thought private law practitioners would suffer a drop in income as a result of the proposals, and 93 per cent thought public law solicitors would lose money.

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