Nearly a fifth of not-for-profit legal advice centres are planning to charge for services as a strategy to survive cuts in legal aid, a study into the impact of the reforms has revealed. But the study found widespread fear of redundancy across the sector.
The board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority will tomorrow be asked to confirm an outcomes-focused approach to implementing the referral fee ban, along with a commitment to develop guidance “as our knowledge of different schemes increases” – although this will fall short of ‘safe harbour’ advice.
The government is not currently planning to set an upper limit on payments that are exempt from the referral fee ban as “consideration for services”, it has announced. The news came as the Claims Management Regulator issued preliminary guidance on how it will approach the ban.
InjuryLawyers4u, arguably the UK’s leading solicitors’ marketing consortium, is opening up its panel for the first time in more than eight years. There are currently 43 firms on the panel, collectively spending millions on advertising the service.
A north London law centre is on course to become the first owner of a not-for-profit alternative business structure, subject to receiving approval. The venture is an example of government-approved efforts by law centres to mitigate the effects of legal aid cuts.
An online NHS Direct for law, supported by 30 law centre-type operations in key areas around the country, should form the basis of a radical new approach to publicly funded legal services, according to a leading legal thinker.
It will be for law firms to work out if they are complying with the ban on referral fees in personal injury cases, with the law drafted in such a way to make some collective marketing schemes “vulnerable to being in breach”, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has warned.
The Legal Services Board has warned regulators not to go further than the legislative requirements for the impending ban on referral fees in personal injury, calling for “a liberal approach” that does not prevent alternative business structures effectively circumventing it.
There is broad support for an outcomes-focused approach to implementing the ban on referral fees in personal injury cases, according to early indications from the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s consultation on the issue.
The Chief Legal Ombudsman today warned of the risk of a payment protection insurance-type scandal engulfing the legal profession after collecting evidence of clients being sold complex and confusing legal products that they often struggled to understand.