Solicitors seek deal on legal aid fees

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SOLICITORS' leaders appeared to shy away from open conflict with the Government yesterday when they put forward proposals aimed at ending a protracted dispute over the reform of legal aid payments, writes Adam Sage.

However, the Law Society is facing mounting calls from the grassroots for some form of industrial action over the plans drawn up by Lord Mackay, the Lord Chancellor.

He wants to introduce standard fees for criminal legal aid work in magistrates' courts, replacing the present system of payment on an hourly rate.

When the proposals were publicised last year, lawyers said they would force some practices out of business and encourage others to cut corners.

Yesterday, however, the Law Society issued a document which appeared to accept the principle behind the Lord Chancellor's arguments but dilute the impact of his plans.

Under the Law Society's proposals, solicitors would receive a fixed fee instead of an hourly rate. But there would be a series of different fees linked to length or complexity of the case.

The proposals follow a meeting last Friday of local Law Society representatives, some of whom called for industrial action.