updated on 12 June 2017
The Law Society has issued guidance to legal aid solicitors who specialise in criminal law reminding them that they can exercise their discretion when deciding to accept cases if “the work threatens the viability of their firm”.
Criminal legal aid solicitors ensure that anyone accused of wrongdoing has a fair trial. As part of that, the Legal Aid Agency's duty rota scheme requires solicitors to attend police stations at any time during the day or night to represent those accused.
James Parry, chair of the Law Society criminal law committee, said: “The aim of this practice note is to remind solicitors handling criminal law cases that only duty work is obligatory and all other work may be refused on the grounds that it is uneconomical.”
Parry goes on to make the point that the reduction in funding for criminal legal aid work has meant that “many solicitors are increasingly required to undertake work that is unremunerated or carried out at a loss; this presents a serious tension between continuing to undertake legally aided work and obligations to provide a proper standard of service to their clients or to conduct business in a financially sustainable manner”.