Legal aid family solicitors are about to feel the full force of LASPO following
news that publicly funded private family law cases fell by 83% in the first financial quarter of 2014/15.
The analysis was compiled by divorce and separation
service, Lawyer-Supported Mediation following
publication of quarterly Legal Aid Agency (LAA) data
earlier this week. The results will come as a wake up call for
the 1,200 law firms offering publicly funded family law
looked at data for the main
categories of private family law casework being targeted by the Legal Aid,
Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). These were: Private law
Children Act proceedings, Financial provision and Other family proceedings.
In first quarter of 2014/15 (April to June), the combined number of
completed certificates for the aforementioned private family law categories,
stood at 10,227. In sharp contrast, the number of certificates granted for the
same period stood at 2,366.
Lawyer-Supported Mediation points out that the
ratio between the two totals underlines how LASPO will decimate casework levels
in the years ahead. Total certificates granted for April to June 2014 amounted
to just a quarter of number of corresponding cases completed in the same
The analysis also looked at the same quarter of 2012/13, the last
full financial year before LASPO was enacted. In this period, the corresponding
number of certificates logged as completed by the LAA stood at 14,168 while the
number of certificates granted stood at 13,687. The difference between the two
totals was a mere 3.3%.
More importantly, the year-on-year quarterly
comparison shows the number of certificates granted by the LAA fell from 13,687
to 2,366, a drop of 83%.
Marc Lopatin, trained mediator and founder of
Lawyer Supported Mediation, said:
'The plummeting number of certificates being
awarded shows LASPO in motion. Law firms overly dependent on legal aid revenues
will need to find ways of earning more private fees. They will have to attract
new clientele by offering services that private law firms will not. This is all
about offering price certainty and affordability while balancing risk and
Lawyer-Supported Mediation warned that many law firms might
still not be alive to the forthcoming drop in revenues. Costs met by the LAA for
the aforementioned private family law services only dropped by 9% between April
and June 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. This is because on average
publicly funded private family cases take 84 weeks from the granting of a
certificate to final payment.
Elsewhere, quarterly data released by the
Ministry of Justice revealed that the number cases featuring ex-partners going
to court over child arrangements or finances fell to 9,291 between April and
June 2014. This is a drop of 40% compared to the same period in 2013. Meanwhile,
the number of publicly funded mediations that got underway between April and
June 2014 fell by over 50%, compared to the same period in 2012, when legal aid
was still in place for referring solicitors.