The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has denied putting pressure on solicitors over their decision to forgo legal aid work from this Wednesday in a protest against cuts.
A number of solicitors have informed the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) they have received calls from the LAA warning them against taking action.
One duty solicitor scheduled to work in Blackpool on Wednesday was reportedly warned that any failure to cover their slot could lead to action being taken by the agency.
The LAA has denied putting pressure on firms, but said that contract managers frequently speak to providers and ‘if appropriate’ may remind them of their contractual arrangements and responsibilities.
Lawyers in East Yorkshire were the latest to agree to take action, voting at a meeting on Friday to refuse legal aid work when cuts come into force this week.
The majority of practitioners at the meeting agreed to refuse both their own and duty client work, while the bar said it will refuse legal aid work in support of the action.
They follow practitioners in Cardiff and Birmingham, as well as solicitors and barristers in Merseyside, in agreeing to take direct action this week.
More local meetings of practitioners are due to take place today, including in Manchester, Leeds, the West Midlands and Leicester, to decide their approach to the upcoming cuts.
A meeting of solicitors and barristers in the West Midlands, originally planned for today, will now take place tomorrow (Tuesday) at 5 pm at Ronald McDonald House, Birmingham.
Meanwhile the ballot on direct action by LCCSA and Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association closes at 10pm today.
On Friday, Jonathan Black, chair of the LCCSA, said that the ballot so far appears to be ‘overwhelmingly in support of action’.