Posts Tagged ‘Legal aid’

Let’s make legal fees work better

01/02/2013, 07:00:34 AM

by Ian Lucas

The perennial argument between government and lawyers is with us again. The Today programme reverberates once more with the arguments of the government that too much is spent on legal aid and, on the other hand, by the legal profession, that the payments are necessary to maintain principled support for an independent legal system.

As a lawyer and former whip in the ministry of Justice, I know that both sides have right on their side. But this dialogue of the deaf must end. It serves no purpose.

I suggest that we adopt a simple principle to make public money work for the benefit of the legal profession and for society as a whole.

The amount paid by the British taxpayer to the legal profession is huge. It is a big mistake to believe that the money involved is limited to the legal aid budget – which in itself amounts to around £2.2 billion. On the contrary, most money is paid to firms who do not carry out legal aid work: to commercial firms of lawyers and to counsel and other legal advisers who provide specialist advice to the myriad of public authorities which exist in the UK.

These include local authorities, regulatory authorities, statutory undertakings and all of the other organisations set up to administer and deliver public services.

This gives an enormous amount of power to the purchaser of legal services, power which I believe should be directed to the public good. Procurement gives government an opportunity and government in its various forms, the biggest single procurer of legal services, needs to wake up to this fact.


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