The Criminal Law Solicitors Associations (CLSA) and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association announced that they had ‘very productive talks’ with union leaders last week.
Solicitors have been working to unionise since they saw results emerge from their striking colleagues at the self-employed criminal bar. Due to obligations under government contracts, solicitors are unable to strike as their colleagues at the bar did. Instead, they settled with boycotting low-paying work such as burglary cases.
The original plan for the leaders was to commission counsel’s advice on unionising all legal aid lawyers and enabling them to have full-blown strike action in the future. With a massive backlog of Crown Court cases, criminal defence solicitors are ‘needed more than ever’. Strike action could mean that those in police custody will not receive the legal advice they are entitled to.
Should legal aid lawyers form their union, the anticipation of industrial action over legal aid fees should increase. At the moment, this plan has been called for a halt.
Criminal barristers gained a better remuneration package from justice secretary Brandon Lewis. With this precedence, the Law society representing the solicitor profession intended to fight for a minimum 15% increase of legal aid rates, as proposed by the government-commissioned criminal legal aid review. Speaking at the House of Commons justice select committee, the society even threatened to sue Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab if he refuses to provide the minimum 15% increase in legal aid fees.
‘That dialogue will continue in the coming weeks and further updates to the membership will follow at an appropriate time,’ the associations commented.