05 July 2013

Legal Aid changes may force small firms to merge

High street law firms have been urged to merge to cope with legal aid cuts by the UK government.

By Charlotte Mullen

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling Wikimedia / Work and Pensions Office

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has called for a restructuring of the legal profession as many firms dependent on legal aid work do not have profit margins large enough to cope, The Guardian reports.

Legal market

Mr Grayling dismissed claims that not enough law firms would take on lower-priced legal aid contracts, adding that there was ‘no shortage of lawyers’. However, small firms could benefit economically if they merged, he said, pointing out that this would not affect the quality of representation.  'This is not about exposing the legal market to a handful of giants who are somehow taking over everything', he told The Guardian.

Urge to merge

Mr Grayling claimed the plans, which have been approved by the Law Society with whom he is collaborating, would save money by reducing fees - paid for representing in police stations and courts - by 17.5 per cent. .

The proposals have not been met without criticism, however, with some even suggesting that lawyers could put pressure on innocent people to plead guilty in a bid to save money.  Mr Grayling has already been forced to drop plans to deny suspects the right to choose their solicitor. The cuts are being forced in by the UK government which is seeking to save £220 million a year.

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