Dismissing an appeal against the reforms by the Law Society, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, the Court of Appeal gave the go-ahead for the process that will cut the number of contracts from around 1,600 to 527.

The groups fear that the move will drive many firms out of business, create advice deserts and lead to a fall in standards of representation and a rise in miscarriages of justice.

The Law Society President, Andrew Caplen, said: “The Court of Appeal decision is a devastating blow. We remain concerned that vulnerable people may not be able to obtain legal representation if they are accused of wrongdoing.”

He confirmed that Chancery Lane had taken the “difficult” decision not to seek to continue the fight in the Supreme Court following advice from counsel that the judgment was “robust” and an appeal unlikely to succeed.

The tender process, which had been suspended until the judgment, reopened and ends on 5 May. If introduced, the new contracts will run from January 2016.

Solicitors have planned meetings to consider their next move, while the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) is also canvassing its membership over how best to support to solicitors.

CBA Chairman, Tony Cross QC, appealed to his members to campaign on behalf of their solicitor colleagues. The next steps, he said, will be informed by the outcome of the General Election.

If elected, the Labour Party has promised to scrap the new tendering plans and review the second tranche of 8.75% fee cuts, due to be introduced in the summer.

Responding to the 2014 consultation on the changes, the Bar Council warned that the proposals would result in “a massive, and irreversible, dislocation of the market for criminal litigators, with many firms and individuals leaving criminal litigation for no apparent benefit”.