The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales,
has today presented its preliminary findings from a major survey conducted to
assess the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act
launched online on 1 April 2014, was undertaken by the Bar Council, with the
assistance of Professor Graham Cookson from The University of Surrey, to look at
the effects of the legislation on access to justice and on the legal profession
one year on from the LASPO Act coming into effect.
to looking at the impact on access to justice, the survey addressed the impact
on different aspects of a barrister’s practice, including case volume, fee
income and security, as well as career development. It covered reforms to civil
and family legal aid, as well as the Jackson reforms to civil litigation funding
implemented through LASPO.
A total of
716 people responded to the survey, of which nearly 90% of respondents were
proportion of respondents, across different practice areas, felt that LASPO had
impacted on access to justice. An overwhelming 80% of respondents who worked in
the family courts, and 64% of respondents who worked in civil courts reported an
increase in court delays since the implementation of
believed there was a significant rise in the number of litigants-in-person, with
88% of respondents who worked within family courts and 70% of respondents from
civil courts reporting an increase in self-representation.
also revealed 61% of all respondents noted an increase in the number of lay
clients saying they had difficulty accessing legal advice and representation.
Similarly, 60% of respondents reported an increase in the number of lay clients
requesting free advice and representation.
of barrister respondents reported that LASPO had partially or significantly
affected the Bar in their practice area. An overwhelming 81% of respondents who
undertook family legal aid work reported impacts, followed by 79% of respondents
who undertook civil litigation work, and 70% of respondents who undertook civil
legal aid work.
volumes, a significant 72% of respondents who undertook family legal aid work
reported a decrease in case work. This was followed by 60% of respondents who
undertook civil legal aid work, and 45% of respondents involved in civil
litigation work who also reported a decline.
In terms of
fee income, 69% of respondents who worked as family legal aid practitioners
reported a decline in fee income. This was followed by 62% of respondents who
worked as civil legal aid practitioners, and 53% of respondents who worked as
civil litigation practitioners.
funding arrangements were also highlighted, with 27% of barrister respondents
reporting a general increase in interest in these arrangements, including fixed
fees, deferred payment, pro bono assessment of risk, litigation funding, and
Damages-Based Agreements (DBAs).