14.09.2009 Immigration Legal Aid, JL Solicitors, Legal Aid No Comments

What is Legal Aid (Part 2)

As you may know from previous posts in this section, JL Solicitors do not currently offer Legal Aid services but we do intend to offer a Legal Aid Immigration service in the near future.

JL Solicitors would like to offer the community a Legal Aid Immigration service right now but unfortunately is prevented from doing so due to the way the Legal Aid Schemes are operated by the Legal Services Commission (LSC).

A firm can only offer Legal Aid services when it has a ‘Legal Aid contract’ (formerly known as a ‘Legal Aid franchise’) with the LSC.  Such contracts currently run for 3 years after which the LSC holds ‘bid rounds’ when firms who wish to offer Legal Aid services apply to the LSC for a Legal Aid contract in the subject areas it wishes to offer Legal Aid services.  Until a bid round takes place a firm that wishes to enter the Legal Aid market to offer Legal Aid services is prevented from doing so.  JL Solicitors intends to apply for a Legal Aid contract to offer Legal Aid Immigration services at the next bid round.

We at JL Solicitors do not agree with such a system as we feel it is anti-competitive, as firms are prevented from entering the market until a bid round takes place (however many Legal Aid firms may give up their Legal Aid contract in the interim period and stop offering a Legal Aid service), and also severely restricts freedom of choice and access to justice, as people who cannot afford to pay for a solicitor of their choosing are limited to using firms who hold an LSC contract specifically in the subject area in which they require legal services.  Needless to say, firms who hold a Legal Aid contract are in a position of a virtual monopoly for at least 3 years with all the potential problems that can cause.  However, the issues of Legal Aid, its regulation and provision are subjects for public debate.

If you are interested in learning more then I would urge you to research the subject and help educate the general public of the issues involved, as we at JL Solicitors endeavour to do.  Unfortunately, it is only when people find themselves in need of Legal Aid services that they discover just how limited and restricted their choices are and what Legal Aid services they can obtain, if at all (for more information please keep an eye on our Legal Aid News section).

If you are having problems finding suitable Legal Aid assistance then please feel free to contact us as we are happy to help you in your search.  Alternatively, you may contact the LSC’s Community Legal Advice helpline on 0845 345 4345.

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