In his letter of 8 July, Hugh Barrett of the Legal Services Commission referred to 'procurement area', ‘client access’, ‘proper advice provision’ and ‘client demand’. Regrettably, this shows a lack of awareness of the type of work in which mental health lawyers are involved.
For over 20 years I have represented hundreds of clients, as have many of my colleagues. On admission to hospital, these clients are vulnerable and frightened. Sometimes I am their first port of call. This is not just a matter of knowing the law, it is also about time spent listening and building up a relationship and rapport, and becoming privy to their confidences. It is a privileged position to be a party to their innermost confidences, and such a relationship cannot be abandoned lightly.
What am I to say to a client I have represented for the best part of 20 years, when I tell them my legal aid quota has run out and they will now have to see someone else? They will not understand the market place which is now the legal aid system.
Luke Grant, solicitor, Worcestershire