Janet Johnson, legal aid solicitor is available for immediate comment on the Carter Report to be published 6 July 2006
On the eve of new reforms to the existing criminal defence procurement system, a leading clinical negligence solicitor reviews the changes to be announced in the Carter Report and examines the impact of the proposed shake-up.
Janet Johnson, category supervisor and solicitor at Manchester-based Donns LLP expects the proposed changes to be generally well received across not only the legal profession, which has nearly 101,000 practitioners, but also by taxpayers in general thanks to the introduction of greater accountability for public money which fixed pricing should establish.
Janet comments: ”The introduction of fixed pricing will allow law firms to restructure or consolidate their businesses which should, theoretically, make them more efficient. A smaller number of large businesses will emerge - rather than the large amount of relatively small suppliers we currently have jockeying for business - who will be able to deliver increased volumes of work at a lower cost.
Larger volumes of work will be concentrated according to geographical spread, which will add to the reduction of costs, and contracts will be tendered on quality, capacity and price. Professional bodies such as the Law Society and the Legal Services Commission will oversee these tendering practices which should ensure that the changes are fairly monitored with a rolling rota basis ensuring a balance of availability of work for each supplier.
There is no reason for smaller firms to lose out under the reforms as they can form consortia allowing them to benefit from the efficiency savings and increased profits as with the larger practices.
One highly anticipated outcome is that solicitors will now have to demonstrate, through past turnover and figures, that they can actually deal with the volume of cases they are looking to gain through the new tendering process. A positive aspect of this is that they will have a manageable number of clients rather than taking on too many for the size of the practice, minimising the risk of compromising on time and quality.
Janet adds: “There has been a marked rise in the costs of Legal Aid since 1997, and the service has been heavily criticised. By completely reviewing the system, it is hoped that expenditure can be more successfully monitored. I favour the onus that will be placed on solicitors to increase their workload, however a cap on fees may prevent legitimate access to justice. If, for example, a case reaches the limit, would a lawyer then have to drop the case or work for free? We may see cases that would otherwise have won, not seeing their day in court. Where public money is concerned, it is vital to regularly review procedures and recognise the need for efficient working practices and budgeting.
At the end of the day, we all want to do the best for our clients and, if these reforms enable us to do that and present a fair solution to all involved, then it has to be a win-win situation for lawyers, clients and, ultimately, taxpayers.”
Vicki Baxter, Joanne Fletcher-Wall or Alex Henshall at Bell Pottinger North (01625) 506444 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
Janet joined Donns in December 2004, having qualified as a solicitor in 1998 at Irwin Mitchell. Janet has specialised in clinical negligence for over 9 years and is the clinical negligence category supervisor.
She specialises in high value and complex injury work. She has clients with cerebral palsy and other forms of brain injury, whose claims require dependency and complex loss of earnings calculations. She has been involved in a number of cases with values in excess of £1million.
Many of Janet’s cases involve traumatic circumstances and her work covers a range of areas including birth injury, neurology, gynaecology, brain injury, fatal accidents involving both adults and children and failure to diagnose cancer.
On 1st May 2004 Janet was appointed as a member of the prestigious Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel. This recognises those lawyers who provide a very high level of expertise in handling clinical negligence cases. Janet is also a member of the Association for Personal Injury Lawyers and a member of Manchester Law Society.
Donns LLP is recognised as one of the leading specialist personal injury law firms in the UK, at the forefront of personal injury litigation dealing with claims both in the UK and abroad.
They provide expert legal advice in all areas of personal injury, accident and clinical negligence cases to ensure that they secure the maximum compensation in the shortest possible time. The firm delivers exceptional levels of client service through their highly trained and experienced legal professionals and cost effective approach.
With over 35 years experience in the personal injury marketplace they have an enviable reputation for providing quality legal services. They have attained and held both the Investors in People (IIP) standard in 1999 and the Lexcel quality mark in 2001.
Donns LLP has a legal aid franchise in both personal injury and clinical negligence.
Visit their website at www.donnslaw.co.uk