Some 42% of respondents undertaking civil litigation work reported experiencing issues with the transition from old-style conditional fee agreements (CFAs) to post-Jackson CFAs.
While the majority of practitioner respondents had no immediate plans to leave the Bar, a significant minority were considering a move to judicial or other positions before 2015. Many respondents indicated that they are actively considering whether they have a long-term future at the Bar, and that the effects of LASPO had caused them to think about the viability of their career at the Bar.
Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:
'Last year LASPO removed legal aid altogether from many family and civil law disputes. These changes pose a significant threat to effective access to justice for some of the most vulnerable members of society, as well as a threat to the viability of the publicly-funded Bar.
This research project was undertaken to provide evidence from which we can better understand and explain the trends which we are beginning to see across civil and family work. The results will help to guide the formulation of policy and provide some strong messages to Government, as we approach the General Election, about how LASPO has affected access to justice, especially on those who are most vulnerable.
Unsurprisingly, the preliminary results from the survey confirm the concerns we raised with the Government some time ago: a significant increase in litigants-in-person, more delays in court, and growing difficulty for individuals in accessing legal advice and representation.
It may be too early to understand the full impact of the changes but it is not too early to look at options for improving the current situation.
These include simplifying court processes to ensure that litigants-in-person are able to fulfil the most basic administrative requirements of the court process, and significantly increasing advertising and promotion of what legal aid services remain available and how they can be accessed.
There needs to be a comprehensive post-implementation review of LASPO, together with an assessment of the effects of the combination of changes that are occurring in civil and family justice. Such a review would also help to identify the (no doubt, unintended) consequences of policy change and the effects of cost shifting, which may require further attention.
The Bar Council is ready to work with policy makers to mitigate the harmful effects of LASPO.'