The Legal Services Commission has delayed tendering for civil legal aid contracts by six months.
The delay means that family solicitors will have to wait longer for the new rules which will ensure they are paid the same as barristers for advocacy work.
Tendering for civil contracts from April 2010 was due to take place in September. However, the LSC has announced that it will extend the existing contracts until October 2010 to allow more time to finalise arrangements.
Richard Miller, head of legal aid at the Law Society, said: ‘While it is disappointing for those family practitioners who were anxious to secure harmonised advocacy rates at the earliest possible opportunity, it has become increasingly clear that the LSC was unable to finish redrafting the contracts, resolve the issue of selection of criteria for allocating contracts, or to finalise the tendering requirements in the time available.
‘Our members then need a period of time after such information is available to prepare themselves for the tender.
‘It is vital that the LSC does not now lose momentum, but still works to publish final information at the earliest possible date.’
LSC chief executive Carolyn Regan said it was ‘prudent to afford more time to providers to prepare properly for this tender’.
The timetable for the bid round for crime contracts is unchanged and is expected to start in October 2009.