Archive for January 2014
Co-operative Legal Services was the first large organisation to be authorised by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority as an Alternative Business Structure. In this podcast, I talk to Christina Blacklaws, Head of Policy of Co-operative Legal Services.
She explains how the Co-op wanted to move into the legal services market by building on advice services they had for many year provided to their members. There is still a lot of emphasis on helping people to help themselves. But they wanted to be able to offer full legal services for members (and other members of the public) on issues that affect their daily lives, for example moving house, consumer matters, employment matters, family matters, housing matters, probate issues.
The new service is based in the fundamental values of the Cooperative movement.
3 hubs – in Manchester, Bristol and London – are supported by other staff in the Co-op – e.g. in their banks. They also work with other agencies, e.g. Shelter.
She argues that they key to their service is transparent pricing: each issue brought to the service is broken down into segments and clients pay for those segments of the service that they want.
She also argues that the structure of Co-operative Legal Services is an attractive environment for staff; there are opportunities for staff to develop legal skills to enable them to develop their full potential as lawyers.
To hear what Christina has to say go to http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/orc/resources/law/els/partington13_14/student/podcasts/Blacklaws.mp3
For more information about Co-op Legal Services go to http://www.co-operativelegalservices.co.uk/
The question of the reliability of criminal statistics is currently the subject of a very important investigation by the Public Administration Committee of the House of Commons. In evidence sessions held before Christmas, evidence was received of how statistics provided by police may be distorted by the practices local police forces adopt for the recording of crime.
The Committee is examining the quality and reliability of police recorded crime data. Issues covered may include:
- the role of the Crime Statistics Advisory Committee in promoting statistical best practice among producers of crime data;
- the practical realities of police crime-recording practices and the factors which may lead these to diverge from established national standards;
- the extent to which the recorded crime data serve as a reliable indicator of national and local crime trends; and
- whether adequate procedures are in place to promote a culture of data integrity within the police.
Witnesses have already told how the ways in which data are collected may reflect the need to satisfy particular government targets for policing.
The final outcomes and comment from Government will appear later in 2014.
Two decisions from the Legal Services Board (LSB), announced in December 2013, will – if approved by Government – have the effect of enabling legal executives to compete more fully in the legal services market.
The first decision approved at application from ILEX Professional Standards’ (IPS) applications to enable it to authorise members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) to practise independently in Probate and Conveyancing. This is likely to pave the way for CILEx members to practise independently in all areas of law. The decision goes to the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, and for subsequent parliamentary approval, anticipated during the course of 2014.
The second decision enables CILEX to regulate Chartered Legal Executives exercising litigation and related rights of audience independently, as well as new rules for regulating immigration advisers.
The ability for individual Chartered Legal Executives already working in a regulated entity to conduct litigation, exercise rights of audience and provide immigration services without supervision requires no further government approval. Thus IPS expects to begin accepting applications from CILEx Fellows in the Summer of 2014. This will benefit thousands of law firms who currently have unnecessary bureaucracies in place to sign-off on the work of experienced Chartered Legal Executives, including those working as fee-earners and partners.
IPS will be able to start authorising independent legal practices offering litigation and immigration services when Parliament has granted powers to set up a compensation fund and to intervene in practices. The LSB has confirmed it will approve IPS’s rules for establishing a compensation fund once Parliament has awarded the relevant powers. This is likely to be taken forward in 2015.
Competition in the legal services market will hot up even more in 2014, following the announcement that the Legal Services Board (LSB) has agreed that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) should be a regulator of probate services and also licensing authority for Alternative Business Structures (ABS), subject to approval from the Lord Chancellor.
This is an important step by the Legal Services Board in opening up the provision of legal services. In making this recommendation, the Legal Services Board has recognised that consumers can receive legal services relating to probate work from appropriately regulated ICAEW Chartered Accountants that are of equal quality to traditional legally qualified providers.
It has also recognised that ICAEW is a suitable body to licence ABSs which will facilitate the creation of new business structures between lawyers, accountants and other professionals (such as Independent Financial Advisors).
For initial information, see http://www.icaew.com/en/technical/legal-and-regulatory/legal-services-act/alternative-business-structures
Keeping track of the changes made to the Civil Justice system, in particular those which followed the reforms recommended by Lord Justice Jackson, is quite a challenge. The Ministry of Justice has provided a useful summary of the changes in the following note. There is also a link to a further website that gives more detail of the legislative basis for the changes that have been made. Links to both sites are set out below.
The main changes are:
- No win no fee Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs)remain available in civil cases, but the additional costs involved (success fee and insurance premiums) are no longer payable by the losing side.
- No win no fee Damages Based Agreements (DBAs) are available in civil litigation for the first time.
- Referral fees are banned in personal injury cases.
- The introduction of new protocols extending the Road Traffic Act personal injury scheme to £25,000.
- A new fixed recoverable costs (FRC) regime.
- Claimants’ damages are protected: the fee that a successful claimant has to pay the lawyer – the lawyer’s ‘success fee’ in CFAs, or ‘payment’ in DBAs – is capped at 25% of the damages recovered, excluding damages for future care and loss
- General damages for non-pecuniary loss such as pain, suffering and loss of amenity are increased by 10%
- A new regime of ‘qualified one way costs shifting’ (QOCS) is introduced in personal injury cases which caps the amount that claimants may have to pay to defendants. Claimants who lose, but whose claims are conducted in accordance with the rules, are protected from having to pay the defendants costs.
- A new sanction on defendants to encourage earlier settlement of claims.
In addition, the functions of the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs, which was to provide advice to the Master of the Rolls on the Guideline Hourly Rates for solicitors, was transferred to the Civil Justice Council with effect from January 2013.
Information in this blog has been adapted from http://www.justice.gov.uk/civil-justice-reforms
More details are available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/civil-justice-reforms/main-changes