The Law Society has questioned whether new government contracts for criminal legal aid will go ahead in January.

Firms are due to find out this Thursday if they have won one of a reduced number of contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations.

Service under the new contracts is scheduled to commence on 11 January.

However, Richard Miller, head of legal aid at the Society, told the Legal Aid Practitioners Group conference on Friday that there were a ‘lot of potential stumbling blocks along the way that the [Ministry of Justice] has to overcome if [it] is going to get this in’.

Miller said it ‘makes no sense’ for the ministry to introduce contracts in procurement areas where it potentially faced a large number of challenges to the tender outcome until those challenges ‘have been resolved’.

Miller told the conference he was 'not 100% certain the contracts are going to come in'.

'I don't know whether there are reasons we're unaware of behind the [announcement] delay that [are] going to cause further problems,' he said. 'Those firms that bid for multiple [contracts] might only get part of what they wanted.

'There are a number of stages here where it could still go wrong for the MoJ.'

Further details about Thursday’s notification process have been revealed in a joint statement from the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, which met representatives from the ministry and Legal Aid Agency on Thursday.

Bidders were due to be told the outcome of the tender last month but the announcement was delayed.

‘The LAA say that they recognise that the contract awards are critical and life-changing for many and they want to ensure they are done correctly and the right decisions are made, which is why they decided to delay the announcement,’ the groups' statement added.

Thursday's announcements will be made over an eight-hour period and in no specific order, the agency has indicated. Firms will be told whether they were shortlisted and how many points they scored in their application.

The time for signing the contracts will be adjusted and be announced in due course, the practitioner groups said.

Last month solicitors were warned that challenges to the tender outcome must be made before the MoJ or LAA enters into a contract with successful bidder.