updated on 02 July 2013
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has indicated in a letter to the chair of the Justice Select Committee that he would allow choice of solicitor to continue and would consider the Law Society's suggested alternative model to price competitive tendering (PCT).
Grayling's concessions follow a meeting with Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, and enormous pressure from the broader profession to reconsider his proposals. Scott-Moncrief said: "Our meeting with the lord chancellor last week demonstrated the benefits of constructive, though robust, engagement. By listening to us on client choice, the government has shown it is serious about constructive engagement, which I welcome. Client choice of solicitor is a fundamental component of a fair justice system and a driver of quality in provision of legal advice."
The Law Society has also published an alternative proposal to the government's criminal legal aid reforms. The proposal focuses on retaining client choice, bringing certainty to providers and facilitating efficiency. The structure proposed is based loosely on the rolling General Medical Service contracts for GP surgeries.
Scott-Moncrief said: "The current model is far from perfect, but if major change is to happen, it must result in a system which offers an attractive career to young lawyers and give commercial comfort so lenders will finance the investments necessary to overcome inefficiencies. I won't pretend that our alternative, if adopted, will result in flags waving in every solicitor firm - it is in many respects the least worse solution. We have consulted with the main practitioner groups and where possible, addressed their major concerns. I am satisfied that, within the parameters of political reality, our proposal sets out a workable future for criminal legal aid clients, solicitors and the wider justice system that is a million miles away from the unworkable approach initially proposed by government."