LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – The Guardian reports that Jack Straw will face his first court challenge as lord chancellor next week when the Law Society, the Commission for Racial Equality and ethnic minority lawyers go to the high court to try to halt the government’s controversial shake-up of legal aid.
They argue that the changes, due to be phased in over the next two years, could force ethnic minority-owned law firms out of business and threaten access to justice for the communities they serve.
The reforms, to a blueprint drawn up by government troubleshooter Lord Carter of Coles, aim to restrict the right to provide legal aid services to a smaller number of bigger firms. The government expects the model to be more efficient and produce savings for the public purse.
But the judicial review application to be heard next week could force Mr Straw to put the reforms on hold while a full race impact assessment is carried out to find out if the changes discriminate against ethnic minority law firms and their clients.
Legal aid lawyers vehemently oppose the reforms, which will initially replace hourly charges with fixed fees – producing, they say, at least a 10% reduction on already low pay rates – before moving to a system of price-competitive tendering by firms for the work.