Despite previous statements which indicated its intention to press ahead with the introduction of new Duty and Own Client contracts in January, the LAA announced today that all existing contract holders will be invited to apply for an extension to the end of March 2016. It also said new litigator fees would be deferred to that date.
Legal challenges are believed to have been issued by unsuccessful bidders in 69 out of the 85 procurement areas. The Law Society has estimated that 85% of the value of the proposed new contracts is being challenged and has provided a map which illustrates the challenges at local level.
The Law Society is calling for an independent review of the process as a second whilstle-blower has emerged to reinforce the claims of the first.
The LAA says the claims will be robustly defended but has also said that they have a backstop date for new contracts of 10 January 2017 in the ‘unlikely’ event that new contracts cannot be started before then.
In the meantime, crime firms continue to live with significant uncertainty and many will be suffering financially.
UPDATE: The LAA has published an FAQ on the contract extension.