The Bar Council backed the government’s plan to restructure payments to Crown court advocates while the Law Society warned it will cause bankruptcies, market failure and advice deserts.
Responding to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation, Reforming the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), the Bar Council said it ‘supports’ the new structure, which will introduce a categorised system for payments rather than relying on the number of pages of prosecution evidence, and increase QCs’ fees by 10%.
But, it criticised the ‘inadequate’ rates and warned that years of falling fees had created an ‘unsustainable situation’ that ‘needs urgently rectifying’.
Many chambers, it said, had calculated that the changes will result in cuts to their income. It suggested running the old and new scheme in parallel for six to 12 months and called for ongoing reviews and adjustments.
The Bar Council also proposed index-linking payments to prevent future erosion by inflation and called for the Litigators’ Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS) to be ‘rebalanced’ to reward litigators properly for case preparation.
But, in its response, the Law Society said the changes would make junior barristers and solicitor advocates ‘considerably worse off’ and warned they will cause firms to ‘go bankrupt, risking localised market failure and advice deserts, and jeopardising the administration of justice’.
Meanwhile, solicitors threatened strike action in protest over planned cuts to the LGFS that will reduce payments for preparation and slash the fees paid to court-appointed advocates by at least 75%.