Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Tuesday Truth

By Rhona Friedman and Paul Harris


Ten Reasons Why You Must Respond To the MOJ Consultation on Criminal Legal Aid

  1. To preserve access to justice
  2. To preserve client choice
  3. To prevent the robust  justice system we are proud of being eroded away
  4. To preserve the rule of law
  5. To allow communities to retain access to their local solicitor
  6. To prevent a reduction in quality of advice as substantial fee cuts and expansion costs force firms to employ inexperienced and under qualified fee earners
  7. To prevent 75% of firms going out of business
  8. To prevent the independent Criminal Bar losing 75% of its suppliers
  9. To provide a future for junior barristers and solicitors
  10. To prevent the inevitable fiscal waste of a future Government having to fix the mess caused by the MOJ ignoring the stark conclusions of its own experts and warnings from all professional bodies about the folly of this doomed plan


The Ministry of Justice- Its own evidence

Otterburn report

The Bullet Points

  • Few firms will survive in the medium term without a duty solicitor contract
  • Few firms could afford to invest in the structural changes needed for a larger duty contract
  • Rural areas need a different approach by the MOJ for Duty Solicitor Provision
  • Hardly any firms could survive the overall reductions envisaged
  • A profit margin of 5% is required for a firm’s  sustainable future
  • Fee Reductions should not take place before consolidation


The PA report (the one they suppressed):

 The Bullet points

  • Legal aid fees declining since 1994
  • Firms who only derive 50% of their revenue from criminal legal aid may survive for a time but will only operate on a 1.6% profit margin
  • Firms who are more reliant on criminal legal aid are unlikely to survive
  • Firms who derive less than 50% of income from criminal legal aid are better placed BUT report acknowledges that the effects of cuts in fees and scope in other parallel areas of practice have not been factored in  
  • MOJ vision of super firms hoovering up contracts is undermined because big is bad for sustainability and the market will be so sickly that outside entrants like Eddie Stobart and Tesco Law will not want to enter
  • Scaling up difficult because of lack of access to lending
  • Restructuring in the way envisaged by the MOJ  difficult in short and medium term because of existing commitments regarding premises, IT etc and time needed for mergers
  • Likely consequences of firms being unable to scale up is a gap in provision in major urban areas such as London and Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire



The Bullet Points

  • The assumptions
    • Modelling based on constant volumes and on 2012-2013 data
    • Modelling based on break even point rather than safety net profit margin.
    • In order to have capacity to scale up for duty contracts firms will surrender 50% of their own clients because duty work offers commercial certainty
    • Firms can scale up because they have 15% latent capacity i.e. could take on 15% more work through reorganising existing structures
    • The reorganisation would include “reallocation of some staff (likely to be fairly junior) from other areas of the firm to work on criminal legal aid work”
  • Consolidation unlikely to occur in the manner required by the MOJ model
  • Firms are cash poor calling into question the ability to invest in the way required
  • Threat to long term sustainability of firms because of low profit margins in the model
  • In 30 of the 53 procurement areas outside London and in all the London areas  KPMG was unable to find any size of contract that would be economically viable

Round peg square hole. Small children capable of learning from experience, or from watching and copying those who have mastered feats of logic married with application; abandon attempts to forcibly impose their will on structures that are not amenable to brute force. The MOJ appears incapable of this kind of considered thought, intent on ignoring calamitous economic base lines, experiential knowledge and expert forecasts. This is the work of crazed wreckers, an Alice in Blunderland approach which would be alarming enough if it was merely the imposition of another doomed central IT project or privatised support service.


Please Respond!

We must shock the Ministry into sanity by our responses to this Consultation otherwise we all witness the MOJ’s headlong run down the rabbit hole taking our criminal defence system with it.

“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”

You have until 15th October. Please Respond. 

The links: the LCCSA and CLSA HUB (please respond through this).  This has all you need: the consultation paper and the three reports.  It also guides you through your response, and will email it to MOJ once your happy with the content.

Wednesday 8th October:

LCCSA London Event re: Responding to the Consultation

Greg Powell from Powell Spencer explains the Consultation

Book here.

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