Transforming legal aid survey

Vicky Ling

Andrew Otterburn and I are carrying out a survey to assess the impact of the Ministry of Justice’s revised proposals on practitioners (Transforming Legal Aid HERE). We were initially encouraged by the high degree of interest and support for our work; but unfortunately, this has not yet translated into a good response rate. It appears that concerns about the confidentiality of the data, the conclusions which may be drawn from the results, and the short time scale for completion, have discouraged many firms from taking part so far.

This is worrying, as the survey will be part of a solid evidence base for the MoJ to make decisions as to the number and size of duty solicitor contracts, and it is obviously crucial that the MoJ gets this right. If firms do not provide us with information, the Ministry will have to make decisions anyway; but will not have the best and most up-to-date information direct from firms, showing the impact that past cuts in fees and reduction in volumes of work is having already.

We need a good response for our report to have credibility. In particular, it is important to assess the position of firms who will just have an own client contract and we will also express our view on the minimum size of a viable contract.

The survey is confidential. All completed questionnaires are returned direct to Andrew Otterburn and neither the MoJ, nor the Law Society, will see them, or know which firms have taken part. The MoJ is appointing independent financial consultants to do some modelling for them but they will not have access to the data set.

Anthony Edwards, of TV Edwards in London, was initially sceptical; but was reassured by our guarantee regarding confidentiality and told me he is convinced that the survey is “really rather critical” to making the government’s proposals workable.

We believe the survey also provides firms with a very useful checklist to help them understand what these changes will mean for their business. One of the firms that has completed the survey said: ‘Thank you, it has certainly helped concentrate our minds on what is happening financially and I am minded to turn the questionnaire and subsequent discussions into our business plan.’

The new date for responses is 16 October 2013. The survey can be downloaded HERE.


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