Practitioner groups have amended a protocol for solicitors taking part in a nationwide legal aid boycott after it prompted the SRA to issue a warning notice.
The protocol, written by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and Big Firms Group, enables solicitors to carry out more police station and magistrates’ court work, in effect restricting the action to Crown court work.
However, the protocol, which came into force on Friday, led the SRA to issue a warning notice yesterday over concerns solicitors and firms following the new protocol ‘may not act in the best interests of each individual client, as required by the SRA principles’.
Thanking the regulator for its ‘timely assistance in these difficult times’, the CLSA and LCCSA issued a revised protocol, ‘written with [yesterday’s] SRA guidance in mind’.
Responding to the regulator’s concerns about creating a limited pro bono retainer and ‘informing the client of all his choices’, the revised protocol states that solicitors ‘may wish to make a note that you have done so. We suggest your current client care letter may advise all clients that they may prefer to find a solicitor to act for them in Crown court matters (if they can find one)’.
The protocol states solicitors should make clear, when attending a client in the police station, that the retainer covers only the police investigation stage and only while the client is at the police station.
‘If you carry out any other work outside the police station, then the SRA is warning you that you might inadvertently create a retainer that will put you under a further duty to give continuing advice and assistance to the defendant,’ it says.
Thousands of solicitors across the country are protesting against a second 8.75% fee cut introduced by the government on 1 July. Areas that have signed up to the latest protocol are: London, Hull, Scunthorpe, Nottingham, Bradford, Merseyside, Birmingham, Newcastle, Lancashire, Sheffield, Derbyshire, Leeds, Wakefield, Pontefract, Kent, Manchester, Bristol, Wrexham, Coventry, Warwickshire, Harrogate, Cornwall, Devon, Cheshire, Rotheram, Barnsley and Doncaster.