Legal Aid vs. Private Lawyers
Here at Forrest Williams solicitors, we do not do any Legal Aid work. We have never conducted Legal Aid work. We made this active choice because we feel that for some clients, a case is too important to risk Legal Aid, where a lawyer is told by the government the type and amount of work that is appropriate for that case. We believe that lawyers should be free to decide what work is appropriate for each case depending on the circumstances of the specific case and the needs of the individual client.
Our clients agree.
As private lawyers we can do this.
We often have clients transfer their cases to us from a Legal Aid firm, and occasionally clients leave our firm because they are unable to fund their whole cases privately due to changes in circumstances.
Several months ago we were instructed by a client charged with a very serious offence; if convicted he faced a lengthy prison sentence. We supported him through his first hearing at the Magistrates Court and then the committal to the Crown Court during which time we got to know our client, and his family, fairly well. We knew his circumstances and we knew his situation. So when he explained that he needed Legal Aid due to losing his job, we talked to him about this and explained his options. We looked at ways that we could continue to support him but when it became clear that there was no way forward because he simply could not afford a private solicitor then we assured him that we would provide his new solicitor with everything they needed once he had selected one.
We heard nothing further, for several months. In fact the next contact we had was from the court asking why we had failed to comply with the court ordered deadlines. We resent them a copy of our earlier letter confirming we were no longer instructed but were unable to assist them further.
Then, the day before our former client’s trial was due to start, we were contacted by his new Legal Aid solicitor asking for his papers. Months had passed. Months in which we could have and would have been working on his file on a daily basis. I hope that the courts granted them an adjournment to allow them to properly prepare the case but I don’t know.
On the other hand I, and my colleagues, were all in the office until late (11pm) last night making sure that each of our client’s files were up to date, checking to make sure all angles were covered and that we were doing everything we possibly could to not only provide the legal support our clients were paying for but the emotional support they and their family needed. We even took a call at 9:45pm from a lady in court this morning who needed advice.
It’s just got me thinking, we find the money for so many ‘essentials’ in life when maybe they’re not truly essential. But what value can we really place on our own future?
If you need legal help and your case is too important for Legal Aid, call our dedicated team now on 01623 397200.