Legal aid is increasingly bureaucratic, unprofitable and risky. Let us get on with the job.
A GP was on one the breakfast television programmes recently talking about the amount of administration doctors have to cope with. She wanted to treat people rather than tick boxes. GP contracts will be changing soon and the profession hopes for more patient contact and less form filling.
That resonates with solicitors, especially those of us working in legal aid. Legal aid is increasingly bureaucratic, unprofitable and risky. So many times we have to do work and hope that we will get paid at the end. It is very difficult to keep up to date not only with the Legal Aid Agency rules and regulations but changes in interpretation of the rules. The practitioner has to check and recheck the rules and make sure the LAA’s reading of them is correct. The cynic might think that goalposts are being moved.
The LAA is audited itself as it is under pressure as well from government and the National Audit Office. Audits are stressful and hard work but overall can be a positive experience. I would think that 99% of the legal work we do as a profession is good and the LAA never sees, of course, the unpaid help solicitors give. It is the form filling, not the professional work that is the problem.
A colleague of mine once wrote to a client at the end of the case, and said ‘please feel free to contact us again if you need to’. The client did and assumed the word free meant ‘free of charge’. I suppose we need to read our own small print sometimes.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott