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22/03/2007

Legal Aid. It's all kicking off…

In the face of the 30 March deadline for signing the new unified contract, today the opposition got serious.

The Law Society instigated Judicial review proceedings. The Pre-Action protocol letter can be read here (pdf). Bloody well done.What Price Justice

The mutterings amongst many firms that a mass refusal to sign the contracts was in order went public with Bindman’s dramatic announcement that they are not signing

[edit 2/4/07 Bindmans have replaced the page with one about why they signed the contract. I consider this to be more than a little dishonest].

As the LSC has stated that no new work can be taken on after 30 March if the contracts are not signed, this is a significant stand. I applaud it.

Bindman’s asking to be joined to the Judicial Review proceedings as an interested party is potentially an astute move, particularly if others follow their lead.

Many firms are adopting a wait and see attitude to signing or not, I suspect. Some simply will not be able to afford not to sign. At the same time, nobody wants to be the firm that lets everyone else down. If a few more high profile firms like Bindman & Partners make public declarations over the next few days, there will be considerable momentum behind the refuseniks.

Should that be the case and should the LSC and DCA stand their ground, there will be very little to no new civil legal aid work undertaken from 1 April 2007.

Interesting times.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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