Two questions. Question one: Have you signed the petition protesting about price-competitive tendering? Question two: Do you think it will make the slightest difference?
I wonder if we have got it completely wrong in our protesting. The more we protest the less likely the protests will be successful. Probably only if we said nothing at all would government stop and rethink. Is not the reality that the public and government will do the opposite of what we lawyers say?
We will organise protests and campaigns but the public is not interested. At best we can expect polite indifference and at worst hostility aimed at ‘rich lawyers’. I do not underestimate the threat to justice and the profession that the plans will have. I just question the best way of going about it. If the government can get away with PCT on crime and removing choice of lawyers it will do it for all legal aid. In reality, in most areas of legal aid the client does not have a choice now because there are so few suppliers.
In Thames Valley it is proposed there will be four providers for crime. I could probably tell you now which suppliers they will be. They will have to subcontract and the fees will be so low that it will not be worth doing it. All we are doing is working harder and harder for less and less pay. So what exactly are we protesting for?
Here are some things we could do:
- Promote some affordable legal insurance to provide the equivalent of green form advice.
- Cut the expenses of practising and I mean cut, not keep at the same level. If we as a profession need to make cuts in what we pay for regulation that should be done.
- Extend rights of audience to anyone supervised by a solicitor.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott