25 Bedford Row supports solicitors' fight against 8.75% cut to LGFS

The leadership of 25BR has called on its members to accept no new instructions where the legal aid order is dated on or after 1 July, in support of the action proposed by solicitors against the imminent 8.75% cut in LGFS.  It is of course, a matter of individual choice for each of our members to decide whether or not they wish to support the action.

The CBA Executive Committee fully debated the issue of direct action on Wednesday 17 June but in the light of rapidly moving events, the Executive Committee met again on Tuesday 30 June. It resolved to ballot members on the issue of action, a ballot that has opened today and will close Tuesday 14 July at 16.00. The ballot question is:

“Solicitors face an 8.75% cut to litigators fees. In support of solicitors, do you wish to go back to ‘no returns’ and also refuse all new work with a representation order dated from 1st July 2015 until such time as solicitors decide not to take further action in respect of that cut?  Yes/No“

The question is very clear. The issue is whether barristers will support solicitors in their fight against fee cuts, as they supported us in our fight against cuts last year. We firmly believe we should.

There has always been regular, constructive and open discussion between 25 BR and those leading the solicitors’ campaign. They and their organisations are very well aware of how loyally we have supported them over the years.

No one needs to tell us at 25BR how much we depend on the survival of criminal firms. As a purely defence set, regarded by many as the leading specialist defence set, we owe our very existence to legal aid firms. We want solicitors to be fairly paid. We understand that many good firms will go to the wall if the Dual Contract system is introduced, with the risk that new businesses will enter the field that care less about the interests of justice than the interests of profit. We know how terrible this will be for the Bar as a whole and especially for the Junior Bar.

In short, we at 25BR know solicitors and barristers have to stand and fight together in what has become a war on the criminal justice system waged by successive governments.

There is now a clear strategy from the LCCSA/CLSA and others as to what their goals are. The immediate battle is to resist the 8.75 cut. We at 25BR are not in the business of futile gestures or even worse, action that does more harm than good. Concerted action by solicitors and barristers for a defined time in support of a clear goal has our unambiguous support.

We do not propose to implement “No Returns’ before the ballot closes but we do intend to refuse to accept any new work where the legal aid order is dated 1 July or after. In particular, we know and appreciate that the most junior barristers may have to bear the brunt of the action with the perverse result that those least able to cope are called upon to make the greatest sacrifice.

In showing solidarity with our solicitor colleagues, we send out this message: we will not be bystanders to the destruction of legal aid, we will not stand idly by and watch access to justice denied to those who need it most. By supporting solicitors, we hope to persuade this government to change its mind about these fee cuts, because they threaten the existence of publicly-funded lawyers, solicitors and barristers alike; both serve the public interest and their survival is crucial to the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.