Family lawyers should brace themselves for plummeting fees as the time lag on the effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 comes to an end, an analysis of Ministry of Justice data has revealed.
A surge in legal aid applications just before the April 2013 introduction of LASPO has meant practitioners have yet to feel the full impact of cuts.
The amount paid to family solicitors by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) for work excluding public law and domestic violence cases, which remain eligible for legal aid, fell by only £13,240,000 (7%) between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
The analysis by Marc Lopatin, founder of Lawyer Supported Mediation, suggested barristers were hit harder, as LAA payments to counsel fell by 61% to £15m.
But the data shows a 84% year-on-year fall in the number of certificates granted for such cases since October 2012. In the six months from October 2012 to March 2013, the LAA granted 29,328 certificates, falling to 4,729 between October 2013 and March 2014.
Lopatin (pictured) said this will result in a dramatic fall in the fees that lawyers will receive as the LAA’s planned savings take effect.
Family lawyers, he said, will feel the full force of the cuts and will need to make plans to avoid redundancies.
Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: ‘We always knew that after LASPO came into effect, there would be a time lag before its full impacts were felt by firms.’ The effects will be ‘biting hard’ in this financial year, he said.
Meanwhile, research funded by the Law Society and carried out by Ipsos-Mori for charity Legal Action Group, showed public opinion has hardened against the government’s legal aid cuts.
The survey, published on the 65th anniversary of the modern legal aid system, showed 23% of the 1,000 surveyed agreed with the cuts, down from 33% in the same poll carried out a year ago.