Last weekend, I attended a lawyer’s conference – ghastly concept, I know; it involved no natural lighting throughout a beautiful weekend. I got to cope by staying in my camper in beautiful places instead of at the conference venue, but that’s another matter…
The conference explored changes to the legal landscape, and therefore along the way the new LASPO Act, with its slashing of legal aid scope, and its new provisions regarding success fees and damages based agreements. Categorically and emphatically, I did not detect any kind of glee over a move from the former to the latter; but there was a certain resignation at the inevitability of it.
Meanwhile, out here in the social media world, there have been the early rumblings of warnings that “benefits sharks” are back, people offering to help those with benefits problems, then ripping them off for a cut of the “winnings”. The warnings are exacerbated, of course, by the coincidence in time of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which replaces Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments requiring 3.2 million claimants to be reassessed for the more restrictive benefit.
These two pictures (resigned professionals or rip-off merchants) are completely different, but are they in fact looking at exactly the same phenomenon from two different angles? And if so, do I have any chance of trying to show each side the perspective of the other?
Well, I’m going to try. And this is why. I imagine that there are many people like me, who have spent years advising on social welfare law under legal aid, who are wondering how on earth we can carry on helping people in a post-legal aid world. And a model that involved charging the successful has to be engaged with.