The Law Society says it is not surprised that criminal defence solicitors have decided to stop doing ‘loss-making’ work in response to the government’s criminal legal aid reforms.

After voting to join the criminal bar in protest action, dozens of London practitioners will decline to do low-paid work, starting on 25 May with burglary cases. 

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said it was no surprise that defence lawyers are having to be more selective about what work they take on. 'It is a necessary element in running their businesses soundly that they do not take on unsustainable amounts of loss-making work,’ she said. 

‘The number of criminal legal aid firms has almost halved in the last 15 years because the work is no longer financially viable. Duty solicitors provide a vital public service attending police stations at all hours of the day and night for incredibly low rates of pay, and they are increasingly scarce in some parts of the country. The government’s failure to properly value criminal defence lawyers is driving this dedicated profession to extinction.’

Earlier this week the lord chief justice warned that if the legal aid dispute is not resolved, the numbers of criminal barristers and solicitors ‘will continue to decline at a time when police numbers are going up and there is enormous pressure on the police and the prosecuting authority to bring more cases into the criminal courts’.

The government says its proposals will ensure professionals are better paid for the work they carry out. However, the Society says the proposals amount to a 9% overall package for solicitors, not the 15% recommended by Sir Christopher Bellamy's legal aid review. The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association has aligned its demands with the criminal bar and is now demanding a 25% fee uplift.

The Ministry of Justice's consultation closes on 7 June.