The Law Society is to pull out of a Ministry of Justice-sponsored group on reforming advocacy fees because of concerns about restrictions on what it can say, Chancery Lane revealed yesterday.

In a statement, the Society said it has written to the MoJ to inform it 'that it will cease its involvement in the advocates' graduated fee scheme (AGFS) working group because of a concern about a lack of openness and transparency and the inability to share the documentation provided by the MoJ with our expert committee to get their views.'

The scheme, which originated in 1996, provides a mechanism for calculating the payment of advocates who conduct criminal cases in the Crown court. The working group was set up in November 2014 to ensure the scheme remains fit for the future. 

In the letter, Law Society president Robert Bourns said: 'We have been involved in the working group since 2015 but recently restrictions on how information was shared meant it was not possible for us to contribute to the process in a meaningful way. 

'Our working group members had concerns about late changes to proposals, but were not permitted to discuss those concerns on a confidential basis with the Society’s expert committee.

'As we are unable to discuss with our expert committee, the Society feels unable to continue to participate in this working group.

'We will of course engage fully in the public consultation process. We will also continue to participate in the working group on the litigators’ graduated fee scheme, where the current terms of engagement allow us to make a meaningful contribution with appropriate input from our committee.'