The Law Society has published guidance for criminal legal aid solicitors affected by the cuts and market reforms announced last month.
The guidance will help solicitors adapt to the new requirements for delivering criminal legal aid and help firms consider options for suitable and sustainable business models – such as mergers, joint ventures and consortia. It provides detailed information on adopting these models and dealing with cost pressures, investment challenges and declining volumes.
The information also explains the compatibility of new ways of working with Solicitors Regulation Authority regulations.
Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: ‘We continue to oppose the cuts, which will have a profound impact on our criminal legal aid members, who face great uncertainty and very difficult challenges in changing their businesses to meet the government’s new requirements.
‘This guidance has been drafted by the Society to help our members identify the most appropriate solution for their situation. [It] is not intended to be prescriptive, but it will provide firms with options and ideas of how they can respond and survive.’
The Society has also launched criminal legal aid road shows, which will take place across England and Wales in March and April.
Meanwhile, courts appear likely to face more disruption as direct action against the cuts continues.
Nigel Lithman QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, claimed the ‘no returns’ policy, which barristers began earlier this month, is compromising major trials ‘up and down the country’. The policy involves cases returned by advocates due to listing clashes not being picked up by other chambers and firms.
Bill Waddington, chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, pledged ‘more focused’ action, including a work to rule and withdrawal of goodwill.
Manchester outfit Burton Copeland is one firm working to rule from 20 March, when the first 8.75% fee cut takes effect.