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The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has agreed to drop changes to legal aid contracts. It was reported on the Law Society’s Gazette that although the LSC had ‘a right to make “minor” changes to contracts with the agreement of the Law Society’, Chancery Lane did not agree that the proposals fell into this category.
The LSC has agreed not to make three of four changes and compromised on the fourth.
‘We had hoped that the Law Society would accept the three amendments now withdrawn were “minor” for the purposes of amending the 2010 contracts – to avoid two different sets of Standard Terms – but we are content with the position following discussions,’ an LSC spokesman told LegalVoice.
According to the Gazette, the proposals at issue would:
- Give the LSC powers to alter criminal contracts in response to changes to prosecution procedures. Such an amendment would have allowed contracts to be changed to take into account initiatives such as the Crown Prosecution Service’s moves towards digital working and, the Law Society argued, would have given the prosecution an unfair advantage.
- Restrict the ability of firms to pay bills by instalments. At present, where firms owe money either to reconcile payments made on account or under the standard monthly payments, they can pay in instalments if the sum is greater than £1,000. The LSC wanted to increase this to £5,000.
- Amend a disclosure provision, to assert that firms consented to the disclosure of contract details instead of saying that the LSC had the right to disclose information. This was dropped.
- Remove firms’ ability to undertake ‘tolerance work’ – limited amounts of legal help in areas outside those where they have a contract.
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