Technical ReportPDF Available

Droughts and Deserts. A report on the immigration legal aid market

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Report on the supply side of the immigration and asylum legal aid market, based on case studies of peer-recognised high quality providers across the ranches of the legal profession in England and Wales - solicitors firms, not-for-profits and barristers. Investigates the relationships between quality, financial viability, client access, demand and supply. Based on PhD thesis. Includes recommendations for policy changes.
Content may be subject to copyright.
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Acronyms)and)Glossary)
BSB! ! Bar!Standards!Board!
ECHR! ! European!Convention!on!Human!Rights!
LAA! ! Legal!Aid!Agency!
LSC! ! Legal!Services!Commission!(predecessor!of!LAA)!
MoJ! ! Ministry!of!Justice!
OISC! ! Office!of!the!Immigration!Services!Commissioner!
SRA! ! Solicitors!Regulation!Authority!
!
Matter!starts!The!number!of!new!cases!a!provider!is!permitted!to!open!in!the!contract!year.!For!
example,!a!provider!may!have!100!matter!starts,!meaning!they!can!open!100!new!
matters!in!the!year!(though!in!practise!they!can!request!supplementary!matter!starts).!
!
Monopsony!The!situation!where!there!is!only!one!buyer,!and!multiple!sellers.!The!term!was!coined!
by!the!economist!Joan!Robinson,!to!differentiate!from!monopoly,!where!there!is!only!
one!seller,!and!many!buyers.!Either!situation!results!in!an!imperfectly!competitive!
market!and!potential!market!failure,!because!the!single!buyer!or!seller!has!excessive!
power.!
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Acknowledgements))
I!am!grateful!to!all!of!the!practitioners!and!others!who!took!part!in!this!study.!I!was!acutely!aware!that!
an!hour!spent!with!me!was!an!hour!not!billed,!yet!some!of!the!most!brilliant!and!hardworking!lawyers!
in!the!country!gave!me!their!time!and!expertise!in!interview,!out!of!commitment!to!legal!aid!and!their!
clients.!!
!
Thanks!are!also!due!to!the!many!organisations!with!an!interest!in!legal!aid!or!immigration!issues!which!
helped!me!to!compile!and!refine!the!recommendations!in!this!report.!
!
The!input!and!generosity!of!my!academic!supervisors!at!the!University!of!Brighton!was!invaluable:!
Professor!Marie-Bénédicte!Dembour,!Professor!Phil!Haynes!and!Dr!Alex!Newbury.!Thanks!especially!to!
Professor!Dembour!who!obtained!the!funding!to!make!it!possible!for!me!to!work!on!this!research!full-
time!from!the!beginning!of!2016.!
!
I!would!also!like!to!thank!the!Joseph!Rowntree!Charitable!Trust,!who!funded!the!writing!of!this!report!
so!that!I!could!turn!the!research!I!had!already!done!into!something!which!I!hope!is!more!accessible!
than!the!100,000+!words!of!academic!thesis.!!
!
I!appreciate!the!interest!and!engagement!of!a!number!of!policy!officials!in!various!ministries!and!
statutory!organisations,!and!look!forward!to!working!with!you!in!the!future.!
!
On!a!practical!note,!thanks!to!Karen!Hood!for!the!map!design!(karen@karenhooddesign.com),!Dawn!
Sackett!for!excellent!proofreading,!and!Dr!Lars!Schuy!for!taking!over!the!layout!and!formatting,!which!
was!far!beyond!the!call!of!duty.!
!
!)
!
1!
Executive)summary)
The!supply!side!of!the!immigration!and!asylum!legal!aid!market!in!England!and!Wales!
includes!all!providers!(not-for-profits!and!private!firms)!under!contract!to!the!Legal!Aid!
Agency!and!all!barristers!(most!of!whom!are!self-employed)!and!chambers!undertaking!
publicly!funded!immigration!and!asylum!work.!
!
There!are!many!excellent!practitioners!and!organisations!doing!immigration!and!asylum!
legal!aid!work!but!they!are!hampered!by!the!existing!systems!of!funding,!contracting!and!
auditing,!which!perversely!protect!the!market!position!of!poorer-quality!providers,!create!
advice!deserts!and!droughts,!and!drive!up!demand!and!cost!in!the!asylum!and!legal!aid!
systems.!
!
The!aim!of!this!report!is!not!to!‘bash’!any!organisation!or!entity!involved!in!the!legal!aid!or!
asylum!system!but!rather!to!demonstrate!where!problems!have!arisen!and!to!propose!ways!
forward,!taking!a!systemic!and!holistic!view!that!facilitates!all!parties!obtaining!the!value!
they!need!from!the!system.!!!
!
Understanding)demand)and)supply)
Demand!and!supply!in!immigration!legal!aid!have!been!misunderstood!at!policy!level.!This!
has!caused!not!only!advice!deserts,!where!there!are!no!legal!aid!providers!at!all,!but!also!
advice!droughts,!where!there!appears!to!be!a!supply!but!clients!cannot!access!advice!or!
representation.!
!
Reviews!which!focus!on!unused!matter!starts!in!the!system!(the!notional!supply)!fail!to!feed!
back!this!critical!information!about!functional!supply!–!i.e.!providers’!and!barristers’!
capacity!to!take!on!new!cases.!
!
All!demand!for!immigration!legal!aid!services!can!be!analysed!through!the!four-square!
demand!matrix.!There!are!two!stages!of!demand:!potential-client!demand!from!individuals!
who!would!like!the!practitioner!or!organisation’s!services,!and!in-case!demand!for!work!on!
existing!clients’!cases.!Demand!can!also!be!divided!into!value!demand!(for!the!stated!
purpose!of!the!service)!and!failure!demand!(for!work!caused!by!a!failure!elsewhere!in!the!
system!or!from!a!system!which!is!badly!set!up).1!Therefore!there!are!four!types!of!demand:!
potential-client!value!demand,!in-case!value!demand,!potential-client!failure!demand!and!
in-case!failure!demand.!
!
All!demand!has!cost!consequences,!and!costs!may!be!generated,!escalated!and!/!or!shifted.!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1!Seddon!J,!Systems'thinking'in'the'public'sector:'the'failure'of'the'reform'regime'
-
'and'a'manifesto'for'a'better'
way!(Triarchy,!2008)!
!
2!
The!evidence!from!this!and!other!studies!suggests!that!a!large!volume!of!failure!demand!is!
pulled!into!the!system!by!poor-quality!decision-making,!particularly!by!the!Home!Office.!
However,!failure!demand!is!also!created!by!poor-quality!providers!mishandling!cases,!which!
then!demand!‘rescue’!work!by!another!lawyer,!or!are!recycled!into!the!system!as!fresh!
claims!work.!
!
This!means!that!the!auditing!and!fee!regimes!which!incentivise!and!protect!poor!quality!
work!provide!particularly!poor!value!for!money,!compared!with!contracting!only!with!high-
quality!providers,!reducing!audit!activity!and!paying!hourly!rates!for!the!work!done.!
!
Lawyers!mediate!the!demand!for!their!work!according!to!a!variety!of!factors,!some!of!which!
apply!equally!to!all!providers!(macro-mediating!factors)!and!others!which!arise!at!
organisation!or!individual!level!(micro-mediating!factors).!Not!all!practitioners!respond!in!
the!same!way!to!the!macro-mediating!factors.!The!way!in!which!demand!is!mediated!
determines!the!quality!of!services!provided.!
!
Funding)
The!standard!fee!is!inadequate!for!high-quality!work,!across!all!branches!of!the!legal!
profession.!High-quality!practitioners!and!organisations!lose!money!on!their!standard!fee!
cases!and!depend!on!cross-subsidy!or!external!subsidy!for!survival.!
!
Not-for-profits!rely!on!grant-funding!(including!for!non-casework!projects)!and!firms,!
chambers!and!barristers!rely!on!privately-paying!clients!and!/!or!higher-paid!areas!of!law.!
Barristers’!chambers!rely!heavily!on!the!goodwill!of!a!small!number!of!high!earners!who!(for!
the!most!part)!no!longer!do!legal!aid!work.!
!
There!are!limits!to!subsidy,!so!high-quality!practitioners!and!organisations!limit!their!
capacity!and!their!legal!aid!market!share!in!order!to!cap!their!losses.!
!
Quality,)financial)viability)and)clients’)access)to)justice)
It!is!impossible!to!reconcile!quality,!financial!viability!and!client!access!on!the!standard!fee.!
High-quality!providers!reconcile!quality!and!financial!viability!by!reducing!access!for!clients!
or!by!prioritising!work!which!is!paid!at!hourly!rates.!
!
The!auditing!regime!carries!heavy!transaction!costs!for!providers!but!fails!to!give!the!funder!
meaningful!information!about!substantive!quality.!Peer!review!is!the!only!means!of!
assessing!substantive!quality,!and!is!under-used.!Its!effectiveness!is!also!compromised!
because!level!three!(out!of!five)!has!been!treated!as!sufficient!to!hold!a!contract.!The!Legal!
Aid!Agency!does!not!differentiate!between!providers!with!the!highest!peer!review!scores!
and!those!with!level!three.!!
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!
3!
There!is!some!evidence!that!some!providers!deliberately!cap!the!amount!of!work!done!on!
cases!at!the!amount!they!will!be!paid!on!the!standard!fee.!They!avoid!exceeding!that!level!
of!work!because!there!is!a!high!risk!of!not!being!paid.!From!a!business!perspective!this!is!
difficult!to!criticise!since!it!is!financially!rational;!however,!it!appears!that!this!work-capping!
particularly!limits!the!extent!and!detail!of!instructions!taken!from!the!client!and!put!into!a!
witness!statement.!The!lack!of!detail!is!said!by!practitioners,!judges!and!support!workers!to!
harm!the!overall!case.!
!
Poor-quality!providers!are!protected!in!the!market.!Clients!lack!information!about!the!
reputation!of!providers!when!they!choose!a!representative!and!are!prevented!from!
changing!provider!if!they!discover!the!existing!one!is!poor!quality.!!
!
As!a!result,!poor-quality!providers!maintain!or!increase!their!market!share,!while!high-
quality!providers!reduce!their!market!share.!
!
Market)failure)
Contrary!to!the!view!in!the!LASPO!Post!Implementation!Review!(paragraph!52)!that!‘the!
market!is!sustainable!at!present’,!this!research!concludes!that!there!is!already!a!market!
failure!in!immigration!and!asylum!legal!aid,!both!in!terms!of!geographical!availability!of!
services!and!the!ability!to!ensure!adequate!quality.!The!supply!side!of!the!market!is!
precarious,!despite!robust!demand,!because!of!the!contract!and!fee!regime.!Urgent!policy!
action!is!required!if!this!is!not!to!become!a!catastrophic!market!failure.!
!
Recommendations)
The!recommendations!in!green!boxes!throughout!and!summarised!at!the!end!of!this!report!
range!from!the!‘umbrella’!or!macro-level!issues!to!detailed!and!specific!rule!changes,!but!
they!are!all!aimed!at!better!understanding!demand!and!supply,!maintaining!functional!
supply!and!reducing!failure!demand,!to!both!ensure!clients!(or!would-be!clients)!have!
access!to!high!quality!advice!and!representation!and!ensure!taxpayers’!money!is!well!spent!
on!value!demand.!Neither!the!clients!nor!the!lawyers!involved!in!publicly!funded!asylum!
and!immigration!legal!services!receive!unmitigated!public!sympathy,!but!it!is!firmly!in!the!
public!interest!to!ensure!that!the!systems!in!which!they!operate!are!effective.!
! !
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4!
Table)of)Contents)
Executive)summary) 1!
Understanding!demand!and!supply! 1!
Funding! 2!
Quality,!financial!viability!and!clients’!access!to!justice! 2!
Market!failure! 3!
Recommendations! 3!
Table)of)Figures) 5!
Introduction) 6!
What!is!the!‘supply-side’!of!the!market?! 8!
The!asylum!process!10!
Demand)11!
What!is!demand?!11!
Drivers!of!potential-client!demand!12!
Drivers!of!in-case!demand!14!
Exponential!increase!in!complexity!16!
Evidential!requirements!17!
The!battle!over!policy!and!legislation!19!
Precedent!proliferation!20!
The!cost!consequences!of!demand!21!
The)Fee)Regime)24!
Standard!fees!and!the!incentive!to!cut!costs!25!
Judicial!review!27!
Unpaid!administration!and!transaction!costs!28!
Auditing)and)quality)control)31!
Performance!targets!and!standards!33!
Peer!review!34!
Market)forces)and)quality)control)36!
Protection!of!poor-quality!providers!36!
Driving!down!quality!37!
Supply)39!
Advice!deserts!and!droughts!39!
Supply!in!detention!41!
Boom!and!bust!43!
Lawyers!mediating!supply!45!
Conclusion)46!
Summary)of)recommendations)49!
Quality!and!auditing!49!
Scope!and!client!access!49!
Fees!and!payment!systems!49!
Provision!in!detention!50!
Advice!droughts!50!
Understanding!and!reducing!demand!50!
Systemic!understanding!and!evidence!gathering!51!
!
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5!
Table)of)Figures)
!
Figure!1!
Legal!aid!supply!map!
9!
Figure!2!
The!UK!asylum!procedure!
10!
Figure!3!
Domestic!appeals!structure!
11!
Figure!4!
The!demand!matrix!
12!
Figure!5!
The!demand!matrix!plus!cost!consequences!
22!
Box!1!
Case!study!–!asylum!and!trafficking!case!
23!
Figure!6!
Analysis!of!demand!and!costs!in!the!Box!1!case!study!
24!
Figure!7!
Hourly!rates!for!appeals!work!(CLR!stage)!for!barristers!
25!
Figure!8!
Illustrative!fees!for!a!barrister!on!hourly!rates!in!a!straightforward!case!
25!
Figure!9!
Peer!review!outcomes!in!civil!and!family!law,!201718!
35!
Figure!10!
Boom!and!bust!cycle!in!the!number!of!immigration!legal!aid!providers!
20042019!
!
44!
Figure!11!
The!Lawyer-Mediated!Supply!model!
46!
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6!
Introduction)
This!was!a!study!of!the!supply-side!of!the!immigration!and!asylum!legal!aid!market,!with!a!particular!
focus!on!quality!of!services,!financial!viability!for!practitioners!and!organisations,!access!for!clients,!
and!the!effective!matching!of!demand!and!supply.2!The!research!was!carried!out!over!a!three-year!
period!from!January!2016December!2018.!This!report!is!intended!to!share!the!key!insights!from!the!
research!with!relevance!to!legal!aid!policy!and!practice.!In!particular,!it!attempts!to!give!a!more!
robust!and!detailed!understanding!of!demand!and!supply!in!immigration!legal!aid!provision!than!has!
previously!been!available,!and!to!explain!how!practitioners!and!organisations!attempt!to!balance!
quality!and!financial!viability.!
!
Neither!legal!aid!lawyers!nor!their!clients!enjoy!the!highest!levels!of!public!sympathy,!perhaps!least!
of!all!in!immigration!and!asylum.!Policy!since!the!1990s!has!been!dominated!by!the!idea!that!
suppliers!induce!demand!for!their!services,!either!by!doing!more!work!at!public!expense!than!the!
client!needs,!or!by!treating!problems!as!legal!ones!when!an!alternative!solution!might!have!been!
more!appropriate.!Alongside!this,!to!justify!cuts,!some!politicians!have!publicly!described!legal!aid!
lawyers!as!‘fat!cats’!who!are!‘on!a!gravy!train’,3!backed!by!misleading!claims!about!lawyers’!income!
and!the!cost!of!the!legal!aid!system!compared!with!other!countries.4!In!immigration,!politicians!have!
also!accused!lawyers!of!‘playing!the!system’!when!acting!appropriately!in!the!client’s!interests,!while!
clients!are!derided!as!‘bogus’!and!‘abusive’,!all!in!the!context!of!very!limited!public!understanding!of!
who!gets!asylum,!why,!and!how!many!‘layers!of!appeal’!there!are.!!
!
But!there!is!a!public!interest!in!having!systems!run!effectively!and!in!paying!only!for!reasonable!
quality;!there!is!a!public!interest!in!a!functional!administrative!system;!there!is!a!public!interest!in!
having!the!UK!comply!with!its!international!obligations,!including!on!asylum.!There!is,!for!people!
seeking!asylum,!an!obvious!interest!in!ensuring!both!access!to!and!quality!of!advice!and!
representation.!And!there!is!an!interest!for!the!state!authorities!in!making!sure!the!asylum!and!
immigration!system!and!the!court!system!run!smoothly.!Legal!aid!is!the!fulcrum!on!which!all!of!this!
balances.!
!
In!this!report,!I!draw!on!concepts!from!economics!which!I!hope!will!speak!to!those!in!policy!positions!
tasked!with!trying!to!design!policies!which!work,!within!the!budgets!they!are!given.!Although!the!
report!is!critical,!in!places,!of!various!aspects!of!the!current!system,!it!is!not!about!apportioning!
blame!but!about!identifying!what!can!and!must!be!improved.!The!recommendations!in!the!report!
range!from!the!‘big!picture’!to!the!finer!detail!and!are!formulated!to!try!to!help!both!policy!makers!
and!campaigners!to!see!a!path!to!a!more!positive,!more!effective!immigration!legal!aid!system.!!
!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2!Many!of!these!terms!are!controversial:!they!are!drawn!from!economics!and!have!been!applied!to!public!
services!over!a!period!since!the!1980s.!Legal!aid!law!is!about!access!to!justice,!not!about!access!to!services,!
and!lawyers!seek!to!uphold!human!and!constitutional!rights!rather!than!selling!services!to!consumers!in!a!
market.!I!accept!these!arguments,!but!have!adopted!the!economic,!market-focused!language!in!order!to!
analyse!the!central!issues.!
3!Being!on!a!gravy!train!is!defined!in!the!Cambridge!English!Dictionary!as!‘a!way!of!making!money!quickly,!
easily,!and!often!dishonestly’.!
4!The!Secret!Barrister,!The'Secret'Barrister'(MacMillan,!2018)!
!
7!
The!word!‘system’!is!important.!The!report!attempts!to!show!how!interdependent!the!different!
parts!of!the!system!are,!including!immigration!authorities,!courts!and!tribunals,!prisons!and!
detention!centres,!asylum!accommodation!and!support!services,!the!legal!aid!authority,!and!the!
network!of!legal!aid!practitioners!and!organisations.!Too!often,!reforms!shunt!costs!around!the!
system,!or!reduce!costs!at!the!expense!of!effectiveness,!or!fail!to!produce!the!change!they!were!
intended!to!produce,!because!each!part!of!the!system!was!treated!in!isolation.!For!this!reason,!some!
of!the!policy!recommendations!are!directed!at!bodies!other!than!the!Legal!Aid!Agency!(LAA)!and!
Ministry!of!Justice!(MoJ),!which!are!nevertheless!crucial!participants!if!meaningful!change!is!to!be!
achieved.!
!
The!MoJ!expressly!adopted!‘market!based!procurement’!of!legal!aid!services!at!the!time!of!the!
Carter!Review!in!2006.5!Market!theories!predict!supply!would!equal!demand!where!price!is!
adequate.!Yet!there!is!data!clearly!showing!a!reduction!in!the!number!of!organisations!doing!legal!
aid!work!in!asylum!and!immigration,!especially!among!not-for-profits.6!There!is!also!data!showing!
areas!of!the!UK!in!which!there!is!no!legal!aid!provision!at!all!in!some!areas!of!law,!and!the!LAA’s!
contract!tender!in!2018!failed!to!find!provision!in!several!geographical!areas!for!particular!areas!of!
law.7!
!
Lord!Carter’s!review!in!2006!also!identified!elements!of!legal!aid!provision!which!defy!explanation!
through!market!and!economic!analysis,!as!have!other!key!authors.8!Carter!noted!the!failure!of!
previous!attempts!to!reform!legal!aid,!and!that!actual!spending!defied!forecasts!for!reasons!he!could!
not!identify.!An!international!comparison!offered!some!answers!to!the!reasons!why!England!and!
Wales!appeared!to!have!higher!legal!aid!costs,!showing!that!system!factors!(the!type!of!justice!
system,!number!of!crimes!prosecuted!and!their!seriousness,!level!of!demand!for!divorce)!were!
primarily!responsible,!though!contractual!incentives!might!also!play!a!role.9!The!data!also!suggest!
that!higher!legal!aid!costs!are!offset!to!a!large!extent!by!lower!spending!on!courts!and!other!parts!of!
the!justice!system.10!In!2004!Richard!Moorhead,!one!of!the!main!authors!on!law!firms!and!legal!aid,!
wrote!about!the!‘absence!of!good!quality!published!data!on!the!economics!of!law!firms!and!the!
operation!of!profit!making!organisations!within!the![legal!aid]!system.’11!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5!Lord!Carter!of!Coles,!Legal'Aid:'A'market-based'approach'to'reform!(2006)!
6!Refugee!Action,!Tipping'the'Scales.'Access'to'Justice'in'the'Asylum'System!(2018)!
7!For!example,!39!procurement!areas,!covering!61!local!authorities!in!England!and!Wales,!received!insufficient!
bids!for!housing!and!debt!advice;!the!education!and!discrimination!tender!was!abandoned!in!February!2018:!
Legal!Action!Group,!Civil'legal'advice'education'and'discrimination'tenders'abandoned!(Feb!2018)
https://www.lag.org.uk/article/204486/civil-legal-advice-education-and-discrimination-tenders-abandoned;!
Legal!Action!Group,!Advice'deserts'set'to'grow'as'LAA'tenders'fail'to'attract'bids!(April!2018)!
https://www.lag.org.uk/article/204777/advice-deserts-set-to-grow-as-laa-tenders-fail-to-attract-bids!!
8!Cape!and!Moorhead,!Demand'induced'supply?'Identifying'cost'drivers'in'criminal'defence'work:'A'report'to'
the'Legal'Services'Commission;!Goriely,!'The!English!Approach!to!Access!to!Justice',!Paper!presented!to!a!
World!Bank!Workshop,!Washington,!11!December!2002;!Alastair!M!Gray,!'The!Reform!of!Legal!Aid'!(1994)!
Oxford!Review!of!Economic!Policy!vol!10!issue!1,!p51!
9!Roger!Bowles!and!Amanda!Perry,!International'comparison'of'publicly'funded'legal'services'and'justice'
systems!(Ministry!of!Justice!Research!Series!14/09,!2009)!
10!Ibid!
11!Richard!Moorhead,!'Legal!aid!and!the!decline!of!private!practice:!blue!murder!or!toxic!job?'!(2004)!
International!Journal!of!the!Legal!Profession!vol!11!issue!3,!p186.!
!
8!
Yet!despite!a!number!of!government-commissioned!reviews!of!legal!aid,!ten!years!after!Moorhead’s!
paper,!the!House!of!Commons!Public!Accounts!Committee!published!severe!criticism!of!the!MoJ!and!
LAA!for!their!lack!of!knowledge!and!understanding!in!respect!of!the!cuts!to!remuneration!rates!and!
scope!of!legal!aid!under!the!Legal!Aid,!Sentencing!and!Punishment!of!Offenders!(LASPO)!Act!2012:12!
The'Agency’s'own'quality'assurance'processes'indicate'that'the'quality'of'face-to-face'legal'
advice'is'unacceptably'low,'with'almost'one'in'four'providers'failing'to'meet'the'quality'
threshold.'This'has'serious'implications'in'terms'of'both'value'for'money'for'the'taxpayer'
and'access'to'justice'for'legal'aid'claimants.'The'Agency'could'not'explain'why'these'results'
were'so'bad,'or'whether'they'are'related'to'the'reduction'in'fees'paid'for'civil'legal'aid.'It'
seems'to'have'done'nothing'to'understand'why'some'providers'are'falling'short'of'the'
quality'standards'expected.'
There!is!an!urgent!need!for!a!more!detailed,!more!accurate!and!more!nuanced!understanding!of!the!
market,!on!which!to!base!policy.!What!drives!demand?!How!does!that!demand!manifest!itself!for!
particular!suppliers!and!services?!How!can!demand!be!mapped!or!monitored?!How!do!lawyers!
decide!which!services!to!supply!and!to!whom?!How!well!is!supply!matched!to!demand?!How!do!
demand!and!supply!interact!with!quality!and!financial!viability?!The!purpose!of!this!report!is!to!give!
a!much!more!detailed,!evidence-based!picture!of!what!is!happening!in!the!‘market’!of!practitioners!
and!organisations!doing!immigration!legal!aid!work,!to!identify!the!gaps!in!data,!and!to!draw!out!the!
implications!for!policy.!
!
What)is)the)‘supply-side’)of)the)market?)
Legal!services!in!immigration!and!asylum!are!not!‘reserved’!to!solicitors,!barristers!and!legal!
executives,!but!it!is!a!criminal!offence!to!give!immigration!advice!unless!either!exempt,!by!virtue!of!
one!of!these!professional!qualifications,!or!registered!with!the!Office!of!the!Immigration!Services!
Commissioner!(OISC).!An!OISC-registered!caseworker!need!not!have!a!professional!legal!
qualification,!but!is!registered!at!level!one!(the!entry!level)!to!three!(the!most!skilled)!which!
determines!the!types!of!work!they!can!undertake.13!!
!
For!legal!aid!purposes,!solicitors!and!OISC-registered!caseworkers!mainly!work!in!private!law!firms!or!
not-for-profits!such!as!law!centres!and!other!charities,!and!provide!advice!directly!to!clients!under!
contract!to!the!LAA.!In!this!report!I!refer!to!these!as!‘providers’.!Barristers!provide!advocacy!in!court!
and!other!services!on!referral!from!solicitors!and!caseworkers,!and!are!mainly!self-employed!
individuals!working!in!sets!of!‘chambers’!with!other!barristers.!Where!I!refer!to!‘lawyers’!or!
‘practitioners’!I!include!solicitors,!caseworkers!and!barristers.!!
!
The!map!below!shows!where!there!are!providers!of!publicly!funded!asylum!legal!services!under!
contract!to!the!LAA.!The!thick!dark!lines!show!the!(approximate)!boundaries!of!‘access!points’!–!the!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
12!House!of!Commons!Public!Accounts!Committee,!Implementing'reforms'to'civil'legal'aid.'Thirty-sixth'Report'
of'Session'201415!(2015)!HC784!
13!Note!that!the!Law!Society!also!operates!an!accreditation!scheme,!IAAS,!which!likewise!has!levels!one!to!
three,!which!is!required!for!those!carrying!out!legal!aid!work.!This!requirement!for!accreditation!to!do!legal!aid!
work!is!unique!to!immigration.!!
!
9!
geographical!areas!into!which!the!country!is!divided!for!legal!aid!procurement!purposes.!The!
numbers!in!the!blue!areas!refer!to!the!number!of!offices!providing!services!in!that!access!point.!
!
!
Figure!1:!Map!showing!supply!of!immigration!and!asylum!legal!aid!lawyers!in!England!and!Wales!as!of!
14/02/2019.!(Source:!Freedom!of!Information!Request!to!Legal!Aid!Agency)!
!
!
13
4
5
27
6
6
21
9
4
130
8
4
5
9
33
36
12
2
KEY:
No Legal Aid Immigraon and Asylum Lawyers
One Legal Aid Immigraon and Asylum Lawyer
More than one Legal Aid Immigraon
and Asylum Lawyer
ENGLAND
WALES
Leicestershire
Suffolk
Norfolk
Cumbria
North
Cumbria
Durham
Tyne
& Wear
Cleveland
Greater
Manchester
Nonghamshire
Hereford &
Worcester
Warwickshire
Lincolnshire
North Yorkshire
Humberside
Wiltshire
KINGSTON
UPON HULL
COVENTRY
STOKE-ON-
TRENT
SWINDON
Essex
Powys
Shropshire
Dyfed
Clwyd
Gwynedd
Lancashire
Cheshire
Derbyshire
Merseyside
West
Yorkshire
Staffordshire
West
Midlands
Gloucestershire
Cambridgeshire
Bedford-
shire
North
Hampton-
shire
South
Yorkshire
Avon
Kent
LOND ON
Herordshire
Surrey
Somerset
Oxfordshire
Berkshire
Bucking-
hamshire
Hampshire
Dorset
Devon
W Sussex E Sussex
Greater
London
Isle of Wight
Cornwall
South
Glamorgan
West
Glamorgan
!
10!
The!‘dots’!on!the!map!are!small!access!points!–!Swindon,!Stoke-on-Trent,!Kingston-Upon-!
Hull!and!Coventry.!The!first!three!have!one!provider!each!while!Coventry!has!two.!
!
Since!barristers!operate!independently,!supply!cannot!be!mapped!in!the!same!way,!but!a!review!by!
the!Bar!Standards!Board!found!that!around!700!barristers!declared!immigration!as!one!of!their!main!
practice!areas!in!2017.14!This!gives!no!indication!of!the!number!doing!publicly-funded!work!but!it!
compares!with!at!least!1,923!practitioners!doing!some!family!work!in!200220!sets!in!2009,15!and!a!
total!of!16,435!barristers!in!practice!in!2017,16!suggesting!that!the!specialist!immigration!bar!is!
comparatively!tiny.!These!700!were!heavily!concentrated!in!London!and,!to!a!lesser!extent,!
Birmingham!and!Manchester,!with!very!few!specialists!practising!elsewhere!and!this!appeared!to!
cause!problems!for!organisations!trying!to!instruct!counsel!for!certain!Tribunal!hearing!centres,!
especially!in!Newport!(South!Wales).!!
!
The)asylum)process)
The!design!of!the!asylum!system!shapes!the!demand!for!asylum-related!legal!aid!services.!Figure!2!
shows!the!system!at!the!time!of!writing,!up!to!appeal!to!the!First-tier!Tribunal.!
!
!
Figure!2:!The!UK!asylum!procedure!
!
Legal!aid!remains!available!for!people!seeking!asylum!or!protection!from!inhuman!or!degrading!
treatment!under!Article!3!of!the!ECHR.!It!is!also!available!for!liberty!cases!(bail!or!unlawful!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
14!Bar!Standards!Board,!Immigration'Thematic'Review'Report'(BSB,!2016)!
15!Maclean!and!Eekelaar,!Family'Law'Advocacy:'How'barristers'help'the'victims'of'family'failure!(Hart!
Publishing,!2009)!p1214!!
16!Bar!Standards!Board:!https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media-centre/research-and-
statistics/statistics/practising-barrister-statistics/!
Asylum'application'(at'port,'at'
asylum'screening'unit,'in'detention)'
Screening'interview
Mainstream'asylum'
procedure
Detained'asylum'
procedure
Safe'third'country'
procedure'(under'
Dublin'Regulation)
Substantive'asylum'
interview;
Five'days'to'submit'
representations'or'
evidence
Decision:'refugee'status'/'
humanitarian'protection'
granted
Decision:'refusal'or'
discretionary'leave
Appeal'to'First-
tier'Tribunal
Removal'
claim'
considered'
elsewhere
Judicial'
review
Claim'certified'as'
clearly'unfounded
Removal'out'of'
country'appeal
!
11!
detention),!for!some!stages!of!trafficking!cases17!and!for!judicial!review!(at!risk!until!permission!is!
granted).!It!is!available,!subject!to!a!means!and!merits!test,!at!application!stage!(called!‘Legal!Help’)!
and!appeal!stage!(called!‘Controlled!Legal!Representation’!or!CLR).!For!onward!appeals!beyond!the!
First-tier!Tribunal,18!and!for!judicial!review!work,!the!provider!obtains!a!legal!aid!certificate,!which!
details!the!time!and!spending!limits.!Figure!3!below!shows!the!appeals!structure.!
!
As!can!be!seen!in!Figure!3,!only!the!First-tier!appeal!is!an!automatic!right.!Any!further!appeals!are!by!
permission!only,!which!means!any!party!wanting!to!appeal!must!obtain!permission!from!either!the!
court!which!made!the!decision!or!the!one!to!which!the!appeal!would!be!made.!
!
!
Figure!3:!Domestic!appeals!structure!
!
Demand)
What)is)demand?)
Demand!arises!in!two!main!stages!–!demand!from!the!potential!clients!who!would!like!the!lawyer!to!
take!on!their!case!(‘potential-client!demand’),!and!demand!from!existing!clients!for!services!on!their!
open!cases!(‘in-case!demand’).!It!also!arises!in!two!main!types:!value!demand,!for!what!the!service!is!
supposed!to!do,!and!failure!demand.19!Failure!demand!is!any!work!which!is!required!because!the!
value!demand!has!not!been!met!or!the!purpose!of!the!system!has!not!been!achieved.!It!arises!either!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
17!See!R!(on!the!application!of!LL)!v!Lord!Chancellor,!Aire!Centre!intervening!(CO/3581/2017)!
18!Until!1!September!2018,!Upper!Tribunal!appeals!work!was!within!the!scope!of!Controlled!Legal!
Representation;!since!that!date!it!is!within!the!scope!of!Licensed!Work.!This!affects!which!providers!can!do!the!
work.!
19!The!concepts!of!value!and!failure!demand!come!from!the!work!of!John!Seddon!on!public!services:!see!
Systems'thinking'in'the'public'sector:'the'failure'of'the'reform'regime''and'a'manifesto'for'a'better'way!
(Triarchy,!2008)!
Appeal&to&First-tier&Tribunal
Appeal&allowed Appeal&dismissed
Appeal&(by&Home&Office&or&
appellant)&to&Upper&Tribunal
Permission&granted Permission&refused
Heard&in&Upper&Tribunal
Appeal&allowed Appeal&dismissed
Upper&Tribunal&
makes&a&new&
decision&or&remits&
to&First-tier
‘Cart’&judicial&review&
of&permission&
refusal
Appeal&(by&either&party)&
to&Court&of&Appeal
Permission&granted Permission&refused
Heard&in&Court&of&Appeal
Court&of&Appeal&makes&a&new&
decision&or&remits&to&Upper&
Tri bun a l Appeal&to&Supreme&Court
Permission&
granted
Permission&
refused
!
12!
when!an!actor!in!the!system!fails!to!do!its!job!properly!or!when!a!system!is!badly!set!up!or!becomes!
distorted!by,!for!example,!performance!targets!and!measures.!!!
!
Therefore,!all!demand!for!asylum!or!immigration!legal!aid!services!can!be!placed!into!one!of!the!four!
squares!of!the!matrix!in!Figure!4!below.!Examples!include:!
Potential-client!value!demand:!demand!for!a!lawyer!to!advise!or!represent!a!first-time!
asylum!applicant;!demand!for!fresh-claim!asylum!advice!from!a!lawyer!after!a!change!in!
home-country!conditions.!Borderline!legal!cases!are!always!value!demand,!regardless!of!the!
outcome.!
In-case!value!demand:!taking!a!detailed!witness!statement!from!the!applicant;!obtaining!a!
medico-legal!report!in!evidence.!!
Potential-client!failure!demand:!need!for!a!fresh!asylum!claim!because!a!previous!lawyer!
handled!the!case!badly;!need!for!a!bail!application!or!judicial!review!because!the!Home!
Office!made!an!unlawful!or!unnecessary!decision!to!detain.!!
In-case!failure!demand:!need!for!a!lawyer!to!challenge!a!poor-quality!decision!by!the!Home!
Office,!Legal!Aid!Agency!or!Tribunal;!additional!demand!for!the!lawyer’s!services!because!of!
delays!in!receiving!a!decision!from!the!Home!Office.!
!
!
Figure!4:!The!demand!matrix!
!
Drivers)of)potential-client)demand)
The!main!driver!of!potential-client!demand!for!asylum!legal!advice!is!the!arrival!of!people!wishing!to!
claim!asylum.!The!number!of!people!seeking!asylum!rises!sharply!during!times!of!global!conflict,!
such!as!the!wars!in!Syria!and!South!Sudan,!Iraq!and!Afghanistan!and,!historically,!the!Balkans!or!
Somalia,!as!shown!in!the!Home!Office’s!quarterly!statistical!releases.20!!
!
The!UK!government’s!policy!of!dispersing!asylum!applicants!on!a!no-choice!basis!throughout!the!
country,!since!2000,!largely!determines!where!in!the!country!potential-client!demand!manifests.!
Until!2016,!the!fact!that!unaccompanied!children!were!not!dispersed!meant!that!some!areas!of!the!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
20!Available!at!https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/immigration-statistics-quarterly-release!
Potential)c lient
Failu re)demand
In-case
Failu re)demand
Potential)c lient
Val ue) demand
In-case
Val ue) demand
FAI LU RE ) DE MA N DVALU E) DE MA ND
POTENTIAL)
CLIENTS
EXISTING)
CLIENTS
!
13!
UK,!particularly!Kent!and!Croydon,21!received!sometimes!large!numbers!of!unaccompanied!children.!
Children!may!now!be!placed!anywhere!in!the!country.!All!of!these!applicants!are!likely!to!require!
advice!and!representation!for!an!asylum!application!and,!if!refused,!for!an!appeal.!For!children,!
there!may!be!a!parallel!demand!for!representation!in!a!challenge!to!a!local!authority!age!
assessment.!
A!second!driver!of!potential-client!demand!is!immigration!detention!and!the!number!of!people!
detained.!Legal!aid!remains!available!for!detention!cases!(regarding!liberty,!though!not!for!the!
detainee’s!substantive!case,!unless!it!falls!within!the!scope!set!out!in!LASPO!2013).!Advice!is!
provided!through!‘surgeries’!provided!by!the!firm!which!is!on!the!rota!for!that!centre!for!that!week,!
meaning!detainees!have!no!choice!of!legal!aid!provider.!Difficulties!in!obtaining!evidence!of!detained!
clients’!means!may!prevent!the!provider!taking!on!meritorious!cases.!Detention!particularly!drives!
demand!for!bail!applications!in!the!Tribunal!and!claims!for!unlawful!detention!in!the!High!Court.!
!!
A!third!driver!of!potential-client!demand!is!‘fresh’!asylum!claims.!These!are!applications!made!after!a!
first!application!has!been!refused!and!any!appeal!rights!are!exhausted.!They!cannot!be!made!
without!new!evidence!which,!taken!together!with!the!material!previously!submitted,!creates!a!
‘realistic!prospect!of!success’.22!Potential-client!demand!for!fresh!claims!work!is!particularly!high!
when,!for!example,!a!conflict!erupts!in!the!applicant’s!country!of!origin!or!the!country!guidance!
case-law!changes!so!that!asylum!claims!are!more!likely!to!succeed,!as!happened!for!Zimbabwean!
nationals!in!2008,23!generating!a!sudden!spike!in!value!demand!for!first-time!and!fresh!asylum!claim!
work.!Sometimes,!during!the!limbo!period!when!a!person!has!been!refused!asylum!but!still!cannot!
return!(or!be!forcibly!returned)!to!the!home!country,!the!individual’s!circumstances!change!because!
of!a!religious!conversion,!same-sex!relationship,!or!political!activity!against!the!home!country!
government!while!in!the!UK,!which!would!put!them!at!risk!on!return,!again!creating!demand!for!
work!on!a!fresh!claim.24!Fresh!claims!work!also!arises!where!an!earlier!adviser!has!done!poor-quality!
work!so!that!a!client!with!a!meritorious!case!nevertheless!loses!their!appeal,!creating!potential-
client!failure!demand.!
!
Geographical!patterns!of!potential-client!demand,!then,!depend!on!dispersal,!detention,!and!the!
location!of!national,!ethnic!or!religious!communities,!while!the!existence!or!absence!of!local!
competition!has!a!bearing!on!potential-client!demand!for!a!particular!provider.!Where!only!one!
provider!is!available!in!an!access!point,25!clients!must!try!that!provider!first,!and!only!then!can!they!
seek!a!provider!outside!the!area.!The!location!of!potential-client!demand!for!barristers’!services!
depends!partly!on!the!same!factors,!but!also!on!the!location!of!Tribunal!hearing!centres,!some!of!
which!(Newport!and!North!Shields!for!example)!are!a!long!way!from!where!immigration!barristers!
are!concentrated.!
!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
21!Kent!because!it!has!the!main!ports!of!arrival,!and!Croydon!because!it!houses!the!Asylum!Screening!Unit,!
meaning!these!are!by!far!the!most!common!places!where!unaccompanied!children!first!come!to!attention.!!
22!Immigration!Rules!paragraph!353!
23!RN!(Returnees)!Zimbabwe!CG![2008]!UKAIT!00083!
24!Individuals’!circumstances!can!of!course!change!in!other!ways!which!do!not!engage!asylum!law,!like!forming!
a!relationship!with!a!British!national!or!having!children!who!are!British.!
25!An!access!point!may!include!several!counties.!
!
14!
Some!legal!need!never!manifests!as!potential-client!demand,!for!example!in!an!area!where!there!are!
no!providers!or!when!word!goes!around!that!help!is!not!available.26!This!was!reflected!in!the!
comments!of!providers!and!barristers!who!said!they!had!no!record!of!the!number!of!cases!turned!
away!by!receptionists!or!clerks!due!to!lack!of!capacity!–!one!solicitor!said!that!‘hundreds!of!people!a!
week’!were!turned!away!but!believed!that!still!others!did!not!come!because!the!news!travelled!that!
they!would!not!take!on!new!cases.!For!barristers,!potential-client!demand!is!filtered!first!through!the!
solicitor!or!caseworker!and!then!through!the!barrister’s!clerk.!As!a!result,!barristers!had!no!idea!of!
the!scale!of!unmet!demand!for!their!own,!their!chambers’,!or!the!immigration!bar’s!services.!!
All!interviewees,!across!the!sector,!described!having!more!potential-client!demand!than!capacity.!
There!was!no!real!competition!for!clients,!meaning!lawyers!had!to!make!decisions!about!which!
demand!to!meet.!These!decisions!are!discussed!later.!
!
There!is!an!urgent!need!for!effective!monitoring!of!demand,!but!this!cannot!be!done!effectively!at!
individual!provider!or!profession!level.!It!is!recommended!that!the!LAA!implements!feedback!loops!
or!research!programmes!which!will!provide!it!with!meaningful!information!about!patterns!and!levels!
of!demand,!geographical!and!legal!areas!of!unmet!demand,!and!drivers!of!demand.!
!
Drivers)of)in-case)demand)
‘In-case!demand’!means!all!of!the!services!which!must,!should!or!could!be!provided!on!an!open!case,!
whether!directly!to!the!client!or!to!any!other!body!involved,!including!the!funder.!In-case!demand!is!
difficult!to!describe!in!the!abstract.!Both!barristers!and!solicitors!characterised!it!as!essentially!
reactive!or!responsive:!they!‘do!what!needs!doing’,!while!acknowledging!that!there!are!different!
ways!of!dealing!with!a!case.!They!had!a!framework!of!steps!which!might!be!needed!in!a!case!and!
exercised!their!judgement!in!deciding!which!to!take.!These!steps!were!learned!through!experience,!
supervision!and!‘water!cooler!chat’!with!peers.!The!high-quality!provider!organisations!in!my!study!
identified!detailed!witness!statements!as!an!essential,!but!reported!(as!did!barristers)!that!some!
providers!produced!very!brief!statements!which!did!not!always!deal!with!the!real!issues!in!the!case!–!
an!assertion!which!was!supported!by!the!file!reviews!I!carried!out!for!earlier!research.27!!
!
Similarly,!depending!on!the!facts!of!the!case!and!the!country!involved,!country!background!research!
may!take!much!longer!than!the!hour!the!Legal!Aid!Agency!has!deemed!generally!necessary!for!doing!
it.!This!attempt!to!standardise!‘reasonableness’!obscures!the!difference!between!cases!and!means!
that!the!lawyer!may!(depending!which!individual!official!assesses!the!file!at!the!end)!experience!
higher!in-case!demand!in!justifying!why!the!research!took!longer!than!the!presumed!standard!time.!!
!
Although!poor-quality!providers!were!outside!the!scope!of!this!study,!some!lawyers!gave!examples!
of!previous!workplaces.!A!solicitor!described!‘generic’!attendance!notes!from!a!colleague!on!Eritrean!
cases!which!had!been!refused!on!application!and!passed!to!this!solicitor!for!appeal.!Each!attendance!
note!recorded!one!hour!of!country!background!research!on!the!issue!of!forced!military!service.!
Although!the!risk!of!forced!military!service,!or!punishment!for!leaving!the!country!without!having!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
26!Robert!Thomas,!'Immigration!and!Access!to!Justice:!A!Critical!Analysis!of!Recent!Restrictions'!in!Palmer!E!and!
others!(eds),!Access'to'Justice'Beyond'the'Policies'and'Politics'of'Austerity!(Hart!Publishing,!2016)!
27!MigrationWork,!Refugee!Action!and!Asylum!Research!Consultancy,!Quality'of'Legal'Services'for'Asylum'
Seekers'(Solicitors!Regulation!Authority,!2016)!
!
15!
completed!it,!is!often!sufficient!for!Eritreans!to!get!asylum,!these!cases!had!been!refused.!Yet!the!
solicitor!explained!that!these!were!especially!strong!cases!with!unique!features!which!were!not!
mentioned!in!the!file!at!all:!!
!
You'apparently'did'an'hour’s'research'here'about'conscription,'which'is'exactly'the'
same'hour'you'did'on'this'other'case.'You'haven’t'mentioned'that'he'was'a'political'
cartoonist!'Solicitor,!private!firm!
It!is!impossible!to!verify!this!with!the!caseworker!involved,!but!the!claiming!of!one!hour’s!work!for!
country!background!research,!which!appears!to!be!‘the!same!hour’,!at!least!raises!the!inference!that!
in!some!firms,!caseworkers!see!these!standards!as!limits!or!caps!on!in-case!supply.28!Some!support!
for!this!comes!from!the!MigrationWork!data,!in!which!a!government!official!stated!that!suppliers!
claiming!the!fixed!fee!had!to!report!the!actual!time!/!cost!spent!on!the!case!and!‘most!come!in!
within!the!fixed!fee.’!The!official!in!question!cited!this!as!evidence!that!the!fixed!fee!was!sufficient,!
but!it!is!at!least!equally!consistent!with!the!inference!that!some!suppliers!cap!their!work!at!the!
amount!they!will!be!paid!for.!Further!support!comes!from!the!accounts!of!two!lawyers!who!were!
told!in!job!interviews!with!other!firms!that!they!‘don’t!go!over!the!fixed!fee’.!!
!
There!is!a!real!risk!that,!far!from!inflating!demand,!some!providers!are!capping!the!extent!of!in-case!
demand!they!will!meet!for!each!client.!It!is!difficult!to!criticise!this,!since!providers!are!businesses!
(even!those!which!are!also!charities)!and!need!to!cover!their!costs.!There!is!a!gulf!between!the!
standard!fee!and!the!escape!threshold!which!places!on!providers!an!unacceptable!level!of!financial!
risk!–!particularly!since!they!must!wait!until!after!the!case!to!find!out!whether!an!unknown!assessor!
will!deem!the!work!done!to!have!been!justified!or!not.!Reducing!the!escape!threshold!to!double!the!
standard!fee!(instead!of!triple)!would!mitigate!the!level!of!risk,!though!providers!would!still!face!
potential!losses!of!almost!100%!on!any!standard!fee!case.!
!
Not!all!in-case!demand!becomes!supply:!a!practitioner!may!believe!a!particular!service!would!be!
useful!but!lack!the!time!to!do!it!or!think!the!cost!would!be!disproportionate.!The!best!practice!might!
be!impractical,!for!example!where!using!a!telephone!interpreter!instead!of!a!face-to-face!one!might!
be!‘not!ideal,!but!the!most!workable!solution’.!Equally,!certain!steps!might!be!required,!even!though!
they!were!not!best!practice!in!terms!of!client!care,!like!obtaining!robust!evidence!of!means!at!the!
outset,!even!if!that!distorted!the!lawyer-client!relationship.!Deciding!how!to!run!a!case!and!how!to!
balance!tactical,!financial,!or!other!resource!considerations!is!a!matter!of!judgement,!based!on!
experience,!knowledge,!priorities!and!skill.!
!
This!highlights!the!opportunity!for!a!funder!to!abuse!its!monopsony!power!in!relation!to!in-case!
demand.!In!pursuing!its!objective!of!cost-cutting,!it!standardises!casework,!representing!a!level!at!
which!quality!will!be!limited!in!all!but!the!simplest!cases,!unless!the!provider!either!subsidises!the!
work!from!other!resources,!or!does!the!work!at-risk!and!spends!extra!(unpaid)!time!justifying!it!
retrospectively.!Yet!as!the!only!purchaser,!it!is!able!to!dictate!terms!both!to!providers!and!eventual!
service!users,!who!have!no!private!spending!power!to!influence!the!market.!This!drives!down!the!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
28!It!is!also!possible!that!the!caseworker!did!two!hours’!research,!using!the!same!material!for!both!cases,!and!
billed!one!hour!against!each!file.!However,!this!explanation!does!not!address!the!criticism!that!the!research!
failed!to!deal!with!the!distinctive!and!important!features!of!the!particular!cases.!
!
16!
quality!of!services!overall!(See!below!on!‘lemon!markets’)!but!also,!when!providers!cap!their!in-case!
supply!in!response!to!the!standard!fee,!reinforces!the!monopsony!purchaser’s!belief!that!the!price!is!
adequate.!
!
!
Exponential)increase)in)complexity)
Part!of!the!increase!in!overall!legal!aid!spending!in!the!1980s!was!attributable!to!an!increase!in!the!
number!of!cases,!as!the!Police!and!Criminal!Evidence!Act!increased!the!number!of!people!who!were!
eligible!for!legal!assistance!at!different!stages.!But,!as!of!1996,!around!three-fifths!of!the!total!
increase!came!from!cost!per!case.29!Researchers!have!noted!the!effects!of!procedural!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
29!Derek!Wall,!'Legal!Aid,!Social!Policy,!and!the!Architecture!of!Criminal!Justice:!The!Supplier!Induced!Inflation!
Thesis!and!Legal!Aid!Policy'!(1996)!Journal!of!Law!and!Society!vol!23!issue!4!p549!
Recommendations)
!
LAA)/)MoJ:)
Implement!a!system!for!monitoring!and!mapping!potential-client!demand,!which!
focuses!on!functional!capacity!and!not!unused!matter!starts.!In!doing!so,!be!
mindful!of!the!existing!unpaid!administrative!burden!on!providers!and!avoid!
increasing!this.!
Where!there!are!multiple!bidders,!contract!only!with!providers!receiving!levels!one!
or!two!on!peer!review,!to!avoid!spending!public!money!on!work!which!adds!little!
value!to!the!case.!
!
Home)Office:)
Improve!the!quality!of!decision!making!in!the!Home!Office.!Existing!efforts!to!do!
this,!as!recommended!by!the!Independent!Chief!Inspector!of!Borders!and!
Immigration!and!the!Justice!Working!Party,!are!welcomed.!
Carefully!monitor!the!quality!of!decisions!and!demand!for!judicial!review!work!
emanating!from!the!reformed!National!Referral!Mechanism.!
Continue!reducing!the!number!of!people!detained!and!the!length!of!detention!
(without!increasing!short-notice!removals,!which!would!increase!demand!for!
urgent!work).!I!endorse!the!recommendation!made!by!the!Joint!Committee!on!
Human!Rights!for!independent!decision!making!and!oversight!on!immigration!
detention.!
!
All)parties:)
Any!changes!to!the!process!should!be!systemic.!For!example,!if!the!Home!Office!
proposes!to!implement!a!policy!of!re-examining!cases!before!hearing,!Tribunal!
listing!times!must!be!sufficiently!predictable!for!representatives!to!obtain!further!
evidence!in!time!for!the!review!and!the!LAA!must!be!willing!to!fund!timely!
evidence!gathering.!
This!report!endorses!the!recommendations!of!the!Justice!Working!Party!on!
reducing!demand!in!the!immigration!appeals!system!without!reducing!appeal!
rights.!
!
17!
requirements,30!which!affect!the!in-case!demand!in!any!given!case.!The!comparative!cost!of!legal!aid!
in!the!UK!and!abroad!is!also!affected!by!the!structure!of!the!legal!system,!which!determines!who!
carries!out!what!tasks:31!when!more!tasks!are!delegated!to!claimant!lawyers,!the!legal!aid!costs!will!
be!higher!(and!the!court!costs!lower)!than!when!the!same!tasks!are!delegated!to!a!lawyer!employed!
by!the!court.!
!
But!this!research!also!shows,!at!least!in!immigration!law,!an!exponential!increase!in!the!complexity!
of!cases.!I!use!‘exponential’!to!mean!that!the!increase!is!greater!than!a!directly!proportional!
increase.!Of!course,!legal!complexity!is!not!amenable!to!numerical!measurement,!but!the!effect!can!
be!inferred!from!other!evidence.!There!are!three!key!issues:!first,!the!nature!of!asylum!means!that!
cases!are!often!difficult!to!evidence,!and!evidential!requirements!are!constantly!shifting;!second,!the!
politicised!nature!of!the!issue!means!that!frequent!changes!to!law!and!policy,!often!aimed!at!
imposing!a!harsher!regime!on!migrants,!drive!legal!challenges!which!have!to!deal!with!the!
lawfulness!of!policies!and!other!provisions,!not!merely!the!facts!of!the!individual!case;!third,!the!
UK’s!precedent-based!legal!system!requires!legal!argument!about!previous!cases,!not!only!the!law!
itself,!and!when!precedent!cases!proliferate,!complexity!increases.!
!
As!a!result,!asylum!and!immigration!work!is!characterised!by!a!greater!volume!of!new!case!law!and!
faster!pace!of!change!than!perhaps!any!other!area!of!law,!and!its!specialist!Tribunal!is!characterised!
by!a!complexity!and!technicality!which!is!in!excess!of!other!Tribunal!jurisdictions.32!Both!the!
legislation!and!the!policies!drafted!to!guide!their!implementation!add!to!the!volume!of!detail!which!
must!be!argued!in!each!case.33!Practitioners!cited!the!Immigration!Act!2014!as!an!example,!creating!
an!interaction!between!immigration!status!and!the!right!to!rent!accommodation,!generating!a!new!
sphere!of!housing!issues!which!demanded!primarily!immigration!expertise.!!
!
This!matters!because!the!increased!cost!per!case!had!been!attributed!to!lawyers!inflating!demand,!
driving!a!move!towards!standard!fees!and!other!measures!to!contain!cost.!Costs!per!case!rise!in!
response!to!complexity,!but!these!costs!are!largely!outside!the!control!of!lawyers,!meaning!that!
simple!measures!aimed!at!limiting!the!cost!per!case!will!either!incentivise!poor!quality!work,!
disincentivise!lawyers!from!doing!certain!cases!at!all!(like!fixed!fee!cases)!or!shift!the!cost!of!doing!
the!job!properly!onto!lawyers!for!as!long!as!they!are!willing!and!able!to!subsidise!the!system.!
!
Evidential)requirements)
Sexuality-based!claims!provide!an!example!of!how!shifting!evidential!requirements!drive!up!in-case!
demand.!Practitioners!explain!that,!in!the!past,!the!Home!Office!position!had!frequently!been!to!
accept!that!an!applicant!was!gay!or!lesbian!but!to!argue!they!could!avoid!persecution!by!relocating!
to!an!area!where!they!were!unknown!and!keeping!their!sexuality!hidden.!The!Supreme!Court!in!HJ'
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
30!Ed!Cape!and!Richard!Moorhead,!Demand'induced'supply?'Identifying'cost'drivers'in'criminal'defence'work:'A'
report'to'the'Legal'Services'Commission!(2005)!
31!Tata!C!and!Stephen!F,!'"Swings!and!roundabouts":!do!changes!to!the!structure!of!legal!aid!remuneration!
make!a!real!difference!to!criminal!case!management!and!case!outcomes?'!(2006)!Criminal!Law!Review!722!
32!Robert!Thomas,!'Immigration!and!Access!to!Justice:!A!Critical!Analysis!of!Recent!Restrictions'!in!Palmer!E!and!
others!(eds),!Access'to'Justice'Beyond'the'Policies'and'Politics'of'Austerity!(Hart!Publishing,!2016)!
33!John!Flood!and!Avis!Whyte!make!a!similar!point,!referring!to!crisis-response!policy-making!without!
considering!the!cost!implications,!'What's!wrong!with!legal!aid?!Lessons!from!outside!the!UK'!(2006)!Civil!
Justice!Quarterly!vol!25!p80!
!
18!
Iran34!held!that!a!person!who!was!at!risk!of!persecution!on!the!grounds!of!sexuality!could!not!be!
expected!to!return!to!their!home!country!and!be!‘discreet’!about!their!sexuality.!Since!then,!the!
Home!Office!tends!to!dispute!that!an!applicant!is!genuinely!gay.35!For!obvious!reasons,!sexuality!is!
not!susceptible!to!proof,!particularly!shortly!after!arrival!from!a!country!where!homosexuality!is!
illegal!and!there!is!unlikely!to!be!a!subsisting!same-sex!relationship!as!evidence.!Medical!evidence!is!
not!applicable.!Fear!of!stigma!or!harm!may!prevent!an!applicant!disclosing!their!sexuality!to!a!
stranger!immediately!on!arrival.36!!
!
Intrusive!and!inappropriate!questioning!by!Home!Office!officials!was!revealed37!amid!an!emerging!
picture!of!pervasive!disbelief!of!any!person!claiming!to!be!gay.38!These!are!not!necessarily!
consistent:!one!solicitor!I!interviewed!had!two!appeals!pending!for!gay!Bangladeshi!men.!In!one,!the!
Home!Office!accepted!that!gay!men!were!persecuted!in!Bangladesh,!but!disputed!that!the!applicant!
was!gay;!in!the!other,!the!Home!Office!accepted!that!the!applicant!was!gay,!but!argued!gay!men!
were!not!persecuted!in!Bangladesh.!For!the!solicitor,!it!was!much!easier!to!prepare!the!evidence!of!
the!background!situation!in!Bangladesh!for!the!latter!appeal!than!the!evidence!of!sexuality!for!the!
former.!
!
Detention!cases!provide!another!example.!An!analysis!of!all!unlawful!detention!cases!reported!in!
2017!showed!that!each!case!involved!extensive!reference!to!rules!and!policy!material:!this!included!
Detention!Centre!Rules,!Detention!Service!Orders,!the!process!guidance!in!respect!of!Detention!
Centre!Rule!35,!the!Immigration!Rules,!various!chapters!of!the!Enforcement!Instructions!and!
Guidance!(a!Home!Office!policy!document)!and!the!Home!Office!Policy!on!Assessment!Care!in!
Detention!and!Teamwork!(regarding!food!refusal).!In!respect!of!each!of!these!provisions,!the!parties!
referred!to!relevant!personal!evidence!including!claimants’!medical!records,!detention!reviews,!
Home!Office!computerised!records,!medical!reports!prepared!under!Rule!35!and!the!Home!Office’s!
responses!to!those!reports.!In!some!cases,39!the!evidence!included!standard!prison!and!probation!
records!and!multiple!witness!statements!about!the!possibility!of!voluntary!or!enforced!return!to!the!
claimant’s!country!of!origin!at!different!points!in!their!detention.!Painstaking!line-by-line!review!of!
medical!notes!and!Home!Office!records!may!be!required.!The!evidential!requirements!created!by!
the!complex!framework!of!law!and!policy,!combined!with!the!ever-finer!distinctions!derived!from!
the!growing!body!of!case!law,!undoubtedly!drive!up!in-case!demand.!
!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
34!HJ'Iran!v'SSHD![2010]!UKSC!31!
35!See!also!Jenni!Millbank,!‘From!Discretion!to!Disbelief:!Recent!Trends!in!Refugee!Determinations!on!the!Basis!
of!Sexual!Orientation!in!Australia!and!the!United!Kingdom’!(2009)!International!Journal!of!Human!Rights!vol!13!
issue!23!p391!
36!Jane!Herlihy,!Kate!Gleeson!and!Stuart!Turner,!'What!assumptions!about!human!behaviour!underlie!asylum!
judgments?'!(2010)!International!Journal!of!Refugee!Law!vol!22!issue!3!p351!
37!Colin!Yeo,!Questions'to'a'bisexual'asylum'seeker'in'detention!(Free!Movement!blog,!2014)!
https://www.freemovement.org.uk/questions-to-a-bisexual-asylum-seeker-in-detention/!accessed!1!May!
2018;!Paul!Dillane,!LGBT'asylum'seekers:'a'toxic'mix'of'homophobia,'misogyny'and'ignorance'corrupts'the'
asylum'system!(Free!Movement!blog,!2015)!https://www.freemovement.org.uk/lgbt-asylum-seekers-a-toxic-
mix-of-homophobia-misogyny-and-ignorance-corrupts-the-asylum-system/!accessed!1!May!2018!
38!John!Vine,!Inspection'Report'on'Asylum'Claims'on'the'Grounds'of'Sexual'Orientation!(Independent!Chief!
Inspector!of!Borders!and!Immigration,!2014)!
39!See!for!example!R'(on'the'application'of'Issa'Mursal'Botan)'v'SSHD![2017]!EWHC!550!(Admin)!
!
19!
The)battle)over)policy)and)legislation)
There!is!a!pattern!of!harsh!new!legislative!and!policy!provisions!or!operational!decisions!being!
challenged!in!the!courts!and!frequently!declared!unlawful:!most!recently,!the!Right!to!Rent!
provisions!from!the!2014!Immigration!Act!were!found!to!be!discriminatory;40!in!other!examples!the!
Court!declared!unlawful!a!Home!Office!attempt!to!drastically!cut!subsistence!payments!to!victims!of!
trafficking!awaiting!decisions!on!their!immigration!cases,41!and!ordered!the!admission!of!four!young!
people!from!the!demolished!Calais!‘Jungle’!camp!to!join!relatives!in!the!UK!despite!Home!Office!
insistence!that!under!the!Dublin!Regulation!they!should!claim!asylum!in!France!first.42!There!are!also!
examples!of!excessively!harsh!use!of!existing!provisions,!like!the!refusal!of!numerous!applications!for!
further!leave!to!remain!by!skilled!migrants!because!of!minor!discrepancies!in!tax!returns.43!
!
This!argument!is!supported!by!practitioners’!accounts!of!an!ongoing!struggle!since!the!days!of!the!
Refugee!Legal!Centre!and!the!beginning!of!the!proliferation!of!immigration!and!asylum!legislation,!
when!the!Home!Office!first!obtained!the!power!to!certify!certain!asylum!claims!as!unfounded.!
Claimant!lawyers!must,!as!a!matter!of!professional!obligation,!seek!to!limit!the!effect!of!harsh!
provisions!on!their!own!clients,!while!government!lawyers!seek!the!opposite.44!!
!
The!same!applies!to!legal!aid:!it!took!judicial!review!challenges!(if!not!always!full!hearings)!to!
establish!that!the!legal!aid!residence!test!was!unlawful,45!to!clarify!that!legal!aid!was!available!for!
trafficking!cases!where!there!is!no!concurrent!asylum!claim,46!and!to!restore!legal!aid!for!
immigration!matters!for!unaccompanied!and!separated!children.47!Most!recently,!court!challenges!
(not!always!reaching!a!full!hearing)!have!resulted!in!concessions!to!the!refusal!of!payment!to!
claimant!lawyers!where!a!public!body!withdraws!a!decision!before!the!permission!hearing,!so!that!
the!claimant!succeeded!substantively!but!never!received!permission.48!On!all!of!these!matters,!
policy!advocacy!and!campaigning!preceded!the!court!actions,!but!it!took!judicial!review!applications!
to!bring!about!change,!at!much!greater!public!expense.!!!
!
The!case!law!also!suggests!a!battle!over!interpretation.!‘Torture’!first!fell!to!be!defined!(in!the!
unlawful!detention!context)!in!the!case!of!EO'&'Others,49!with!the!High!Court!adopting!a!broad!
definition!including!severe!mistreatment!by!non-state!agents!where!the!state!failed!to!protect,!
which!was!more!inclusive!than!that!in!the!United!Nations!Convention!Against!Torture!(UNCAT).!A!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
40!Joint'Council'for'the'Welfare'of'Immigrants'v'SSHD'(Residential'Landlords'Association,'Equality'and'Human'
Rights'Commission'and'Liberty'intervening)![2019]!EWHC!452!(Admin)!
41!K'&'Anor,'R'(on'the'application'of)'v'Secretary'of'State'for'the'Home'Department![2018]!EWHC!2951!(Admin)!
42!Secretary'of'State'for'the'Home'Department'v'ZAT!and'others![2016]!EWCA!Civ!810!
43!See!Dadzie![2018]!CSOH!128!and!Oji![2018]!CSOH!127!
44!Phillips!and!Hardy,!'Managing!multiple!identities:!Discourse,!legitimacy!and!resources!in!the!UK!refugee!
system'!(1997)!Organization!vol!4!p159!
45!Gudaniviciene'and'Others'(R'on'the'application'of)'v'The'Director'of'Legal'Aid'Casework![2014]!EWCA!Civ!
1622!
46!R'(on'the'application'of'LL)'v'Lord'Chancellor,'Aire'Centre'intervening!(CO/3581/2017)!
47!https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-
statement/Commons/2018-07-12/HCWS853/!
48!James!Packer,'More'relief'for'legal'aid'lawyers:'government'gives'ground'on'judicial'review'work,!Free!
Movement!14!March!2019!https://www.freemovement.org.uk/legal-aid-judicial-review-duncan-lewis/!
49!R'(on'the'application'of'EO,'RA,'CE,'OE'and'RAN)'v'Secretary'of'State'for'the'Home'Department![2013]!EWHC!
1236!(Admin)!
!
20!
later!case!in!the!High!Court!considered!what!amounted!to!‘independent!evidence!of!torture’:!a!
report!prepared!by!a!doctor!in!the!detention!centre,!pursuant!to!Rule!35!of!the!Detention!Centre!
Rules!2001,!could!amount!to!such!evidence,!depending!on!the!circumstances.50!Several!cases!
therefore!turned!on!the!adequacy!of!the!health!services!provided!in!detention!and!the!ability!of!
doctors!there!to!identify!potential!victims!of!torture,51!before!a!Home!Office-commissioned!review!
by!Stephen!Shaw!highlighted!‘systemic!failings’!in!detention!centre!health!care.52!In!201415,!three!
separate!cases!were!decided!differently!by!different!judges!in!the!High!Court!on!the!interaction!
between!Rule!35!and!the!policy!in!Chapter!55.10.!Two!of!these!came!before!the!Court!of!Appeal!as!a!
joined!appeal!in!2016,53!producing!a!21-page!judgment!detailing!precisely!how!the!policy!in!Chapter!
55.10!should!be!applied.!!
Shortly!afterwards,!the!Home!Office!replaced!that!policy!with!a!new!one,!called!the!Adults!At!Risk!
policy,!effectively!meaning!that!all!of!the!work!of!interpreting!policy!had!to!begin!again.!This!policy!
replaced!the!inclusive!definition!of!torture!established!in!EO!with!the!much!narrower!UNCAT!
definition.!The!charity!Medical!Justice,!the!Equality!and!Human!Rights!Commission!and!seven!
individual!claimants!challenged!the!lawfulness!of!the!re-definition!of!torture,!which!was!(for!a!
second!time)!found!to!be!unlawful.54!The!case!meant!that!an!unknown!number!of!other!people!
could!potentially!claim!for!unlawful!detention!which!had!been!based!on!the!recycled!misdefinition!
of!torture.55!
!
Of!course,!there!are!also!provisions!which!have!been!upheld!in!spite!of!challenges.!But!the!point!
remains!that!the!implementation!of!numerous!unlawful!provisions,!in!pursuit!of!a!hostile!or!
compliant!environment!or!of!legal!aid!savings,!have!generated!demand!and!escalated!costs!to!the!
public.!
!
Precedent)proliferation)
Arising!from!the!proliferation!of!policy!material!and!legislation,!and!the!resulting!battle!over!
interpretation,!comes!an!increase!in!the!number!of!precedent!cases,!or!authorities,!which!each!
party’s!lawyers!need!to!cite!in!argument.!There!were!49!substantive!unlawful!detention!judgments!
reported!in!2017,!compared!with!six!in!2007.!A!random!sample!of!five!judgments!from!each!of!those!
years!shows!that!the!2007!judgments!cited!an!average!of!just!under!six!cases!each,!compared!with!
an!average!of!just!under!15!cases!per!reported!judgment!in!2017.!!
!
Citing!a!case!in!argument!requires!the!lawyer!to!read!the!case,!consider!its!relevance,!write!legal!
argument!on!it!and!copy!the!official!version!of!it!as!part!of!the!bundle!of!authorities!for!the!court!
and!the!other!party.!Every!case!is!factually!different,!so!there!is!scope!for!argument!over!which!
precedent!cases!are!most!relevant,!and!it!is!easy!to!see!how!a!growing!body!of!case!law,!relating!to!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
50!R'(D'&'K)'v'Secretary'of'State'for'the'Home'Department![2006]!EWHC!980!(Admin)!
51!Notably!Detention'Action'v'SSHD'[2014]!EWHC!2245!(Admin);!RE'&'others'v'SSHD'[2015]!EWHC!2331!
(Admin)!!
52!Stephen!Shaw,!Review'into'the'welfare'in'detention'of'vulnerable'persons!(Cm9186,!2016),!p178!/!para!9.1!
53!SSHD'v!BA'Eritrea'and'ST'Sri'Lanka'v'SSHD![2016]!EWCA!Civ!458!
54!R'(on'the'application'of'Medical'Justice'and'Others)'v'SSHD![2017]!EWHC!2461!(Admin)!
55!Diane!Taylor,!'Torture!victims!were!wrongly!imprisoned!in!UK,!high!court!rules'!The'Guardian!(London!10!
October!2017)!https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/10/torture-victims-were-wrongly-
imprisoned-in-uk-high-court-rules,!accessed!4!October!2018!
!
21!
an!ever-changing!body!of!law!and!policy,!creates!an!exponential!growth!in!complexity!of!individual!
cases.!It!can!therefore!be!seen!that!every!extra!case!the!lawyer!cites!almost!certainly!amounts!to!in-
case!value!demand,!but!adds!to!the!amount!of!work!required!and!the!cost!of!doing!it.!!
!
These!three!factors!–!evidential!demands,!struggles!over!interpretation,!and!precedent!proliferation!
–!drive!up!the!complexity!and!therefore!the!in-case!demand!of!many!cases,!from!first-time!asylum!
claims!through!to!judicial!review!and!higher!court!appeals.!In!every!case,!the!lawyer!has!a!duty!to!
the!client!to!put!forward!the!case!in!the!most!favourable!and!effective!way!possible.!This!means!
although!the!lawyer!has!to!interpret!or!determine!the!in-case!demand,!in!the!context!of!the!
procedural,!legal!and!evidential!rules,!the!actual!increase!in!complexity!is!not!attributable!to!lawyers!
but!to!the!system!structure,!the!publication!of!policies!by!the!Home!Office,!legislation!and!the!
decisions!of!judges.!
!
The!recommendations!which!follow!therefore!involve!‘big!picture’!issues!because!these!are!not!
matters!which!can!be!changed!in!a!fragmentary!way.!Numerous!reports!have!criticised!the!‘culture!
of!disbelief’!which!continually!intensifies!the!evidential!demands.!Many!of!the!harsher!provisions!
have!turned!out!to!be!discriminatory,!otherwise!unlawful,!or!simply!excessively!expensive!and!the!
recommendations!below!aim!at!systemic!change.!
!
!
!
!
The)cost)consequences)of)demand)
All!demand!has!cost!consequences.!As!shown!in!Figure!5,!cost!may!be:!!
1) Generated,!where!there!was!no!cost!previously;!
2) Escalated;!
3) Shifted,!to!another!body!or!individual!within!the!system.!
!
Even!the!cost!of!value!demand!can!be!shifted!where!the!funder!does!not!pay!the!full!cost!of!the!
value!demand.!For!example,!when!the!standard!fee!does!not!cover!the!cost!of!the!work!done!on!the!
case,!the!cost!of!in-case!value!demand!is!shifted!from!the!LAA!to!the!lawyer.!When!asylum!decisions!
are!delayed,!this!generates!in-case!failure!demand!and!typically!the!costs!are!escalated,!with!the!
escalated!cost!being!shifted!to!the!provider,!unless!the!total!cost!is!either!below!the!standard!fee!or!
Recommendations)
!
Home)Office)and)LAA:)
•! Reduce!the!hostility!of!the!system!in!order!to!reduce!both!in-case!and!
potential-client!demand!while!maintaining!fairness.!!
•!Undertake!or!commission!an!evidence-based!whole-system!analysis,!in!
partnership!with!others,!of!the!asylum!process!from!arrival!to!the!grant!of!
settlement!or!removal!from!the!UK.!
!
22!
the!case!escapes!the!standard!fee!scheme.56!In!the!latter!case,!the!costs!escalated!by!the!Home!
Office!are!shifted!to!the!LAA.!
!
!
Figure!5:!The!demand!matrix!plus!cost!consequences!
!
Analysis!of!the!cost!consequences!of!demand!provides!the!clearest!demonstration!of!the!need!for!a!
systemic!approach!and!of!the!inherent!problems!with!a!fixed!fee!system!of!payment!for!legal!
representatives.!Within!the!complex,!multi-party!asylum!justice!system,!including!lawyers,!the!
Ministry!of!Justice!and!Home!Office,!and!their!various!agencies,!as!well!as!privately-run!detention!
centres,!some!demand!results!from!a!target!clash!between!different!parties.!!
!
For!example,!the!Home!Office!has!a!target!of!deciding!98%!of!‘straightforward’!cases!within!six!
months!means!those!which!are!not!decided!within!six!months!are!re-classified!as!complex!cases!and!
‘go!to!the!bottom!of!the!pile’!according!to!practitioners,!because!they!can!no!longer!contribute!to!
meeting!the!target.57!The!delay!increases!the!cost!of!the!case!to!providers,!who!still!have!to!keep!in!
contact!with!the!client!throughout!and!may!even!have!to!start!judicial!review!proceedings!in!relation!
to!the!delay,!adding!to!the!overall!costs!of!the!case!and,!potentially,!to!the!judicial!review!workload!
of!the!Upper!Tribunal.!Interviewees!believed!that!the!Tribunal!was!more!reluctant!to!grant!
adjournments!before!the!day!of!hearing!because!of!its!own!targets!for!case!closure!within!a!fixed!
period!of!time.!This!causes!wasted!costs!in!sending!a!representative,!often!a!barrister,!to!the!hearing!
which!is!then!adjourned!by!the!judge!at!court,!or!leads!to!onward!appeals,!at!further!cost,!on!the!
basis!that!the!first!hearing!was!procedurally!unfair.!Often!the!reason!for!requesting!the!adjournment!
was!the!representatives!being!unable!to!(promptly)!obtain!legal!aid!funding!for!an!expert!report!or!
other!evidence.!!
!
Advocating!a!whole-system!view!of!demand!in!the!asylum!system!is!not!necessarily!unorthodox:!
even!the!Carter!review!emphasised!the!need!to!look!at!police,!prosecutors!and!judiciary!as!well!as!
legal!aid,!for!the!causes!of!rising!costs.!On!this!basis!he!argued!that!fair!pricing,!which!recognised!
that!other!parts!of!the!system!also!drove!up!costs,!was!essential!for!maintaining!a!supplier!base.!Yet!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
56!Because!it!costs!more!than!triple!the!amount!of!work!paid!for!on!the!standard!fee.!
57!Independent!Chief!Inspector!of!Borders!and!Immigration,!Inspection'Report'on'Asylum'Intake'and'Casework'
(2017)!
Potential)c lient
Failu re)demand
In-case
Failu re)demand
Potential)c lient
Val ue) demand
In-case
Val ue) demand
FAI LU RE ) DE MA N DVALU E) DE MA ND
Costs:
-Generated
-Escalated
-Shifted
!
23!
there!is!no!evidence!that!pricing!or!policy!on!legal!aid!are!in!fact!informed!by!a!detailed!
understanding!of!the!drivers!of!demand.!The!story!in!Box!1!is!a!genuine!case!which!illustrates!drivers!
of!demand!and!their!cost!consequences.!!
Case)study:)Asylum)and)trafficking)case)
!
Ms!A!is!a!Vietnamese!national.!Vietnam!is!the!country!of!origin!for!a!large!number!of!
victims!of!human!trafficking!and!is!known!to!provide!very!little!protection!for!its!
nationals!against!trafficking.!
!
Ms!A!was!trafficked!to!the!UK!for!cannabis!cultivation.!She!was!arrested!in!a!raid!on!a!
cannabis!factory!and!served!a!prison!sentence,!before!being!deported!to!Vietnam.!
She!was!then!re-trafficked,!this!time!to!another!Asian!country,!before!arriving!in!the!
UK!again.!She!claimed!asylum,!and!the!Home!Office!had!to!decide!1)!whether!she!
was!a!victim!of!trafficking!(under!the!Trafficking!Convention)!and!2)!whether!she!was!
a!refugee!(under!the!Refugee!Convention).!These!are!separate!processes,!but!closely!
related!because!a!risk!of!re-trafficking!and!a!lack!of!protection!from!the!Vietnamese!
authorities!would!likely!mean!she!qualified!for!asylum.!
!
The!Home!Office!accepted!that!Ms!A!had!been!trafficked!from!Vietnam!twice!but!
nevertheless!concluded!that!she!was!not!a!victim!of!trafficking!‘for!the!purposes!of!
the!trafficking!convention’!because!she!was!not!trafficked!into!the!UK!on!the!second!
occasion.!This!decision!was!unlawful!–!the!courts!have!already!decided!there!is!no!
such!distinction!in!law.!Since!the!trafficking!decision!was!critical!to!the!asylum!
application!as!well,!Ms!A’s!lawyers!had!no!choice!but!to!challenge!it.!
!
There!is!no!right!of!appeal!against!a!negative!trafficking!decision!–!only!judicial!
review.!When!Ms!A’s!lawyers!wrote!to!the!Home!Office,!under!the!Pre-Action!
Protocol!for!judicial!review,!the!Home!Office!insisted!on!maintaining!that!flawed!
decision,!meaning!the!lawyers!had!to!apply!for!judicial!review.!!
!
That!means!the!solicitor!has!to!instruct!a!barrister!to!draft!grounds!for!judicial!review,!
and!to!lodge!a!claim!form!and!all!the!key!evidence.!At!this!point,!the!case!passes!to!
the!Government!Legal!Department!(GLD),!acting!as!legal!representative!to!the!Home!
Office.!
!!
The!GLD!conceded!the!case!at!the!earliest!opportunity,!correctly!recognising!that!the!
decision!was!legally!indefensible.!That!meant!the!Home!Office!had!to!withdraw!the!
decision!and!pay!the!applicant’s!legal!costs.!
!
Meanwhile!the!asylum!application!was!still!outstanding.!The!costs!had!been!
increased!by!the!delays,!but!the!lawyers!did!not!‘bump!up’!the!work!to!escape!the!
fixed!fee!scheme.!
!
24!
The!story!in!Box!1!is!broken!down!by!demand!type!and!cost!consequences!in!Figure!6,!showing!how!
these!can!be!analysed!in!any!individual!case!according!to!the!demand!matrix.!!
!
Stage!
Cost!
Demand!type!
Costs!destination/s!
Asylum!
application!
£1,020!profit!cost!+!
£498!
disbursements!
£1,518!total!
In-case!value!demand!for!
provider’s!services;!some!in-case!
failure!demand!caused!by!Home!
Office!in!failing!to!recognise!
trafficking,!prolonging!the!
process.!
LAA!pays!provider!(£413!+!
£498!disbursements);!
Provider!sustains!loss!of!£607.!
Escalated!and!shifted!costs.!
Judicial!review!
pre-action!
£300!
In-case!failure!demand!caused!by!
Home!Office!for!provider’s!
services;!also!for!Home!Office’s!
own!services!and!LAA’s!
administrative!work.!
LAA!pays!provider!£300.!
Generated!costs.!
Judicial!review!
application!
£3,770!full!cost;!
final!payment!likely!
£2,600–2,850!
In-case!failure!demand!caused!by!
Home!Office!for!work!by!lawyers,!
Government!Legal!Department,!
LAA!(administration!only)!and!
Administrative!Court.!
Home!Office!pays!costs!it!
generated!for!lawyers;!
Other!parties!absorb!other!
generated!costs.!
Figure!6:!Analysis!of!demand!and!costs!in!the!Box!1!case!study!
!
Using!the!demand!matrix!and!cost!consequences,!it!is!possible!to!analyse!every!instance!of!demand!
and!to!understand!the!drivers!of!demand.!Clearly,!there!will!be!some!‘grey!areas’,!for!example!
where!lawyers!find!that!clients!are!unable!to!engage!in!the!process!at!all!without!a!level!of!support!
which!the!LAA!may!view!as!‘excessive!hand!holding’,!or!over-provision!of!services,!so!different!
analysts!would!assess!the!same!work!as!value!or!failure!demand.!These!contested!instances!are!
represented!in!the!blurred!borderline!at!the!centre!of!the!matrix.!This!nuanced!and!detailed!
understanding!of!demand!is!a!crucial!foundation!for!the!formation!of!more!effective!legal!aid!and!
asylum!policy.!
!
The)Fee)Regime)
Having!discussed!demand,!the!next!section!addresses!the!fee!regime,!developing!in!more!detail!the!
explanation!of!how!financial!factors!in!the!contract!affect!practitioners!and!organisations!involved!in!
legal!aid!work.!Some!of!the!recommendations!in!this!section!concern!fees!for!lawyers!–!a!topic!
which!may!never!generate!a!lot!of!public!support.!However,!a!sustainable!immigration!and!asylum!
system!depends!on!having!a!sustainable!base!of!advice!providers!and!advocates!of!sufficient!size!
and!quality!to!keep!it!functioning!effectively!and!ensure!that!accurate!decisions!are!reached.!!
!
!
25!
Standard)fees)and)the)incentive)to)cut)costs)
The!standard!fee!has!been!much!criticised!elsewhere,!as!noted!in!the!Public!Accounts!Committee!
report,58!but!this!section!aims!to!show!precisely!why!it!is!problematic.!The!standard!fee!for!asylum!
appeals!work!does!not!cover!the!work!high-quality!practitioners!and!organisations!do!on!the!case.!
For!barristers!in!an!asylum!appeal,!the!standard!fee!is!£302!(gross).59!Taking!the!hourly!rates!as!a!
reference!(see!Figure!7),!the!standard!fee!covers!as!an!example,!three!hours!of!preparation!and!
attendance,60!including!a!discussion!with!the!client!before!court;!one-and-a-half!hours’!travel!and!
waiting!and!an!80!minute!hearing,!amounting!to!£303.92.!!
!
Hourly!rates!(escape!fee!cases!–!appeal!stage)!
London!
Non-London!
Preparation!and!attendance!
£57.83!
£54.09!
Travel!and!Waiting!
£28.62!
£27.81!
Advocacy!
£65.79!
£65.79!
Figure!7:!hourly!rates!for!appeals!work!(CLR!stage)!for!barristers!
However,!barristers!said!that!this!would!be!an!exceptionally!short!time!in!all!three!sections,!even!in!
the!simplest!cases.!As!a!minimum,!they!would!spend!three!to!five!hours!on!preparation!in!a!case!
which!presented!no!special!legal!or!factual!challenges,!plus!half!an!hour!in!conference!with!the!client!
at!court!before!the!hearing.!Travelling!and!waiting!would!rarely!be!less!than!two!hours!and!hearings!
generally!lasted!at!least!two!hours.!On!hourly!rates,!this!would!be!paid!as!in!Figure!8,!below.!
Therefore!the!barristers!in!the!study!said!the!simplest!cases!cost!around!1.5!times!the!standard!fee!
paid!for!doing!them.!The!private!firms!and!not-for-profits!in!this!study!said!the!average!case!cost!
double!the!standard!fee!paid!for!their!work.!!!
!
Figure!8:!Illustrative!fees!for!a!barrister!on!hourly!rates!in!a!straightforward!case!
!
The!possibility!of!escaping!the!fixed!fee!scheme!did!not!mitigate!the!risk!of!doing!unpaid!work!for!
barristers.!This!was!partly!because!they!depended!on!the!instructing!solicitor!or!caseworker!to!bill!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
58!House!of!Commons!Public!Accounts!Committee,!Implementing'reforms'to'civil'legal'aid.'Thirty-sixth'Report'
of'Session'201415!(HC784,!2015)!!
59!Civil!Legal!Aid!(Remuneration)!Regulations!2013!SI/2013/422!
60!‘Attendance’!means!the!discussion!(or!‘conference’!with!the!client!and!/!or!instructing!solicitor!before!and!/!
or!after!the!hearing.!
Preparation!and!attendance!(four!hours)!
£260.23!
Travel!and!waiting!(two!hours)!
£57.24!
Advocacy!(two!hours)!
£131.58!
Total!
£449.05!
!
26!
the!case!as!an!escape!fee!file.!Often!barristers!did!the!most!work!on!cases!where!the!caseworker!
had!done!the!least!work,!particularly!where!advisers!were!poorly!supervised!or!had!a!business!
model!which!relied!on!standardising!work,!using!low-qualified!staff!or!capping!work!at!the!standard!
fee!level.!That!means!the!caseworker’s!own!work!is!unlikely!to!escape!the!fixed!fee!scheme!and!the!
barrister!would!only!receive!the!standard!fee.!
!
The!same!applies!to!solicitors,!as!shown!in!the!example!in!Figure!6,!earlier.!Costs!were!frequently!
between!two!and!three!times!the!standard!fee,!meaning!they!would!not!escape!the!standard!fee!
scheme!and!would!be!paid!for!half!or!two-fifths!of!the!work!done.!One!provider!showed!me!that!
their!cheapest!cases!cost!just!over!the!standard!fee,!meaning!the!‘swings!and!roundabouts’!idea!that!
providers!would!make!up!the!losses!on!one!case!by!being!paid!extra!on!another,!simply!does!not!
work.!It!only!works!for!providers!who!either!cap!their!work!at!standard!fee!level!or!who!receive!
large!numbers!of!first-time!asylum!applicants!relatively!late!in!the!process,!such!as!those!in!dispersal!
areas.!This!in!turn!means!complex!cases!which!are!underworked!are!often!recycled!into!the!system!
as!fresh!claims.!
!
The!result!of!this!was!that!high-quality!lawyers!lost!money!on!every!standard!fee!case!they!did.!They!
subsidised!this!from!other!sources:!grant-funding,!wider!charitable!funding!and!non-legal!work!for!
the!not-for-profits!and!private!client!work!for!barristers!and!firms.!Not-for-profits,!however,!found!
that!grants!brought!their!own!transaction!costs!(in!applying!for,!managing!and!monitoring!awards!or!
contracts,!for!example).!In!all!cases,!there!were!limits!to!subsidy,!and!each!practitioner!and!
organisation!limited!its!legal!aid!work!in!order!to!cap!its!losses!at!the!amount!it!could!raise!from!
other!income!sources.!This!meant!they!reduced!or!limited!their!legal!aid!market!share.!
!
Many!organisations!made!prioritisation!decisions!about!which!demand!they!would!meet,!choosing!
to!focus!on!cases!which!would!be!paid!at!hourly!rates!(such!as!unaccompanied!children’s!cases)!
which!did!not!subsidise!other!work!but!enabled!them!to!be!paid!for!the!actual!hours!worked.!Some!
took!clients!only!by!referral,!and!only!with!complex!cases!that!would!escape!the!standard!fee!
scheme,!turning!away!all!‘walk-up’!enquiries.!This!raises!the!question!whether!these!providers!are!
‘cherry-picking’!or!‘cream-skimming’!the!better!paid!work.!However,!hourly!rates!work!only!allows!
them!to!be!paid!for!the!hours!worked,!not!to!claim!for!more!than!the!work!done.!Further,!the!
decision!to!pay!hourly!rates!for!certain!types!of!work!is!intended!to!reflect!the!greater!complexity!of!
that!work.!Cherry-picking!could!only!apply!to!standard!fee!work,!where!providers!took!on!the!
simplest!cases,!anticipating!that!they!would!cost!less!than!the!standard!fee!to!do.!!
!
Barristers,!meanwhile,!did!not!prioritise!in!the!same!way,!considering!themselves!bound!by!the!cab!
rank!rule,!though!clerks!said!they!tended!to!offer!the!most!junior!counsel!for!standard!fee!cases.!
However!barristers!also!replaced!legal!aid!work!with!private!clients!or!with!work!in!other!areas!of!
law!or!outside!legal!practice.!In!particular,!they!were!less!willing!to!travel!to!more!distant!Tribunal!
hearing!centres!because!travel!costs!were!not!paid,!and!several!were!reducing!their!availability!for!
pro!bono!work!because!they!already!did!so!much!unpaid!work.!!
!
At!barrister!level,!the!overall!picture!was!one!of!chambers,!and!immigration!teams!in!particular,!
being!very!heavily!subsidised!by!small!numbers!of!high!earners,!most!of!whom!no!longer!did!any!
legal!aid!work!but!remained!in!the!same!chambers!despite!paying!disproportionately!high!
!
27!
contributions!compared!with!what!they!would!pay!elsewhere.!One!set!had!folded!largely!because!a!
small!number!of!high!earners!resigned,!leaving!the!rest!of!chambers!too!precarious!to!continue!
operating.!This!is!not!a!sustainable!model!for!training!and!supply!of!barristers!to!ensure!that!publicly!
funded!advocacy!work!can!be!covered.!
!
The!result!of!this!appears!to!be!a!threat!to!supply!(at!least!at!the!high-quality!end!of!the!spectrum)!
for!First-tier!Tribunal!appeals!work!and!for!those!with!standard!fee!cases,!as!lawyers!reconcile!
quality!with!financial!viability!by!reducing!client!access.!For!Refugee!and!Migrant!Justice,!the!
attempt!to!maintain!quality!on!the!large!scale!on!which!they!operated!(regardless!of!funding!type)!
resulted!in!catastrophic!loss!of!financial!viability.!Other!providers!have!chosen!to!reconcile!financial!
viability!and!client!access!by!reducing!quality.!This!research!strongly!suggests!that!it!is!impossible!to!
reconcile!all!three.!
!
Judicial)review)
All!practitioners!and!organisations!in!the!study!said!they!were!continuing!to!do!judicial!review!work!
despite!changes!to!funding!which!meant!payment!was!at!risk.!Barristers!said!they!had!been!paid!for!
‘most’!of!their!judicial!review!cases!though!some!solicitors!and!caseworkers!had!been!‘stung’.!
Because!they!usually!won!costs!against!the!Home!Office!at!inter'partes!or!private!rates,!this!enabled!
them!to!cross-subsidise!some!of!the!losses!from!standard!fee!work.!!
!
However,!sometimes!this!had!involved!a!great!many!hours!of!work!at!risk!since!permission!had!only!
been!granted!by!the!Court!of!Appeal,!following!refusals!on!the!papers!and!at!oral!hearing!in!the!
Administrative!Court.!More!junior!barristers!believed!that!being!unpaid!in!only!a!small!number!of!
such!cases!would!put!them!off!doing!legal!aid!judicial!review!work.!The!risk!was!heightened!by!the!
fact!that!the!prospects!of!permission!depended!heavily!on!which!judge!decided!the!application.!This!
made!it!particularly!difficult!to!predict!which!cases!would!succeed!at!permission!stage.!Accordingly,!
it!is!unfair!to!place!all!risk!on!the!lawyers!in!judicial!review!work.!
!
The!changes!also!cause!cash!flow!problems!because,!when!lawyers!lodge!applications!on!issues!
where!the!law!or!facts!are!yet!to!be!clarified!(like!safety!of!returns!to!a!particular!country!or!
lawfulness!of!a!new!policy),!numerous!applications!are!often!‘stayed’!behind!a!small!selection!of!test!
cases.!Because!the!law!was!undecided!when!the!claim!was!made,!it!is!likely!that!the!lawyers!will!
eventually!be!able!to!claim!payment!under!the!exceptions!to!the!regulations,61!regardless!of!the!
outcome.!But!because!permission!has!not!(yet)!been!granted,!the!lawyers!cannot!claim!payments!on!
account!from!the!Legal!Aid!Agency,!so!must!wait!months!or!even!years!for!their!fees.!
!
Further,!when!claimant!lawyers!won!costs!against!the!Home!Office,!the!delays!in!receiving!payment!
for!judicial!review!caused!serious!cash!flow!problems.!Junior!barristers!described!having!to!move!in!
with!friends!or!take!on!other!work!because!they!could!not!pay!their!rent,!despite!working!full-time!
at!the!bar.!More!senior!barristers!described!having!tax!bills!which!were!only!£14k!lower!than!their!
total!gross!earnings!for!the!year,!because!they!were!taxed!on!money!billed!but!not!yet!received!from!
government!bodies.!
!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
61!Civil!Legal!Aid!(Remuneration)!(Amendment)!Regulations!2015!
!
28!
Having!won!costs!against!the!Home!Office,!barristers!described!routinely!losing!at!least!2030%!of!
the!money!billed!in!the!negotiation!process.!While!negotiation!over!the!bill!may!be!a!normal!part!of!
litigation,!barristers!are!effectively!prevented!from!challenging!low!offers!because!the!receiving!
party!pays!the!costs!of!assessment!if!they!fail!to!beat!the!paying!party’s!offer!by!at!least!20%!across!
the!solicitor’s!and!barrister’s!bill.!This!is!arguably!too!high!a!threshold,!since!it!is!very!difficult!for!
each!lawyer!to!be!certain!that!the!other!has!prepared!their!own!bill!carefully.!It!means!the!Home!
Office!is!unfairly!advantaged!in!that!it!can!make!low!offers!without!particularising!or!justifying!its!
assertions!that!the!work!was!excessive.!!
!
Many!barristers!also!explained!that!they!avoided!taking!on!judicial!review!work!from!certain!(often!
very!large)!legal!aid!firms!which!were!known!to!have!less!robust!‘merits!filters’,!or!to!fail!to!include!
or!flag!up!vital!documents!relevant!to!the!merits!of!the!case!because!work!was!delegated!to!
inexperienced!and!under-supervised!staff.!In!that!scenario!the!barrister!would!need!to!do!more!
work!to!identify!the!possible!arguments!and!evidence!for!judicial!review.!By!not!volunteering!for!
work!from!those!firms,!they!protected!themselves!from!doing!many!hours!of!work!unpaid!on!weak!
cases.!This,!though,!meant!that!cases!with!real!merit!would!go!unrepresented,!‘hidden’!behind!
weaker!cases!where!supervision!had!been!inadequate.!
!
Unpaid)administration)and)transaction)costs)
‘Transaction!costs’!are!the!costs!of!running!markets,62!such!as!bidding!for!work,!drafting!and!
negotiating!contracts,!compliance!monitoring!and!reporting.!The!economist!Oliver!Williamson!
argued!that,!for!a!market!to!be!successful,!transaction!costs!should!be!minimised!–!but!that!market!
failures!were!caused!by!wrongly!assuming!that!zero-cost!transactions!were!possible.63!There!is!a!
heightened!risk!of!market!failure!when!‘prices!lie’!because!they!ignore!transaction!costs.64!The!
Carter!review!in!2006!did!suggest!that!awarding!fewer!and!larger!contracts!would!lower!transaction!
costs!for!the!LSC!–!despite!acknowledging!the!high!level!of!client!service!provided!by!smaller!firms.65!
But!as!Whitfield!pointed!out!in!2007,!there!has!been!little!discussion!of!the!transaction!costs!in!the!
legal!aid!market.66!!
!
Many!of!these!costs!arise!through!the!auditing!system,!which!is!discussed!in!the!next!section.!But!at!
the!time!of!the!fieldwork,!the!online!Client!and!Cost!Management!System!(CCMS)!was!generating!
very!significant!transaction!costs!to!providers.!CCMS!had!been!in!mandatory!use!since!1!April!2016!
for!all!funding!applications,!case-specific!communications!between!providers!and!the!LAA,!and!some!
billing.!It!was!causing!severe!stress!to!providers!across!civil!legal!aid!because!it!did!not!work!
effectively.!Interviewees!described!forms!which!would!not!accept!most!forms!of!punctuation!so!
that,!for!example,!it!was!impossible!to!enter!an!email!address!or!to!copy!and!paste!a!legal!argument;!
forms!which!gave!no!means!of!entering!a!particular!piece!of!information;!slowness;!instability!such!
that!users!would!lose!their!connection!to!the!system!mid-session;!inability!to!access!the!information!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
62!Oliver!E!Williamson,!Markets'and'hierarchies!(Macmillan!New!York,!1975)!
63!Oliver!E!Williamson,!'The!new!institutional!economics:!taking!stock,!looking!ahead'!(2000)!Journal!of!
Economic!Literature!vol!38!p595!
64!Barry!Bozeman,!'Public-Value!Failure:!When!Efficient!Markets!May!Not!Do'!(2002)!Public!Administration!
Review!vol!62!p145,!at!p146!
65!Lord!Carter!of!Coles,!Legal'Aid:'A'market-based'approach'to'reform!(2006)!
66!Dexter!Whitfield,!'Marketisation!of!legal!aid'!(2007)!Legal!Action!6!March!2007!
!
29!
previously!submitted;!the!lawyer-user!seeing!different!information!from!the!LAA-user;!a!message!
system!which!was!inefficient!because!of!the!time!it!took!for!responses!to!appear;!no!means!of!
notifying!the!LAA!that!an!application!was!urgent,!meaning!caseworkers!had!to!submit!an!application!
through!CCMS!and!then!telephone!a!high-level!official!(because!CCMS!had!replaced!telephone!lines!
to!lower-level!officials)!to!request!urgent!consideration,!and!so!on.!
!
The!additional!unpaid!time!in!which!providers!were!not!doing!casework!because!of!CCMS!and!the!
frustration!and!stress!of!dealing!with!it!emerged!as!the!single!most!significant!problem!for!providers,!
and!a!real!threat!to!survival!for!some!who!felt!they!were!already!‘on!the!brink’!because!of!the!fee!
cuts.!It!may!be!that,!over!time,!problems!with!CCMS!will!be!resolved!but!two!important!points!were!
made:!first,!the!system!was!released!and!imposed!on!providers!while!still!known!to!have!significant!
problems,!which!providers!felt!showed!a!disdain!for!their!time!and!viability;!second,!given!how!tight!
the!financial!margins!are,!providers!felt!they!were!ill-equipped!to!bear!the!additional!costs!of!dealing!
with!CCMS.!Although!the!LAA!had!allowed!for!the!possibility!of!ex-gratia!payments,!on!application,!
for!time!lost!to!CCMS,!this!required!providers!to!spend!yet!more!time!applying!for!such!payments!
and!providing!evidence,!with!no!clear!criteria!for!when!they!would!be!granted.!
!
Trude!has!called!this!the!‘opportunity!cost’!of!administration!of!legal!aid.67!There!are!numerous!
practical!examples!of!inefficiency!being!forced!upon!providers.!When!commissioning!an!expert!
report,!suppliers!are!required!to!get!three!quotations,!even!if!they!know!exactly!who!is!the!right!
expert!for!the!specific!case,!wasting!their!own!and!the!unwanted!experts’!time!and!souring!
relationships!with!people!who!dislike!being!‘part!of!an!auction’.!This!struggle!to!obtain!expert!
evidence!is!echoed!in!research!with!family!practitioners!where!lawyers!explained!that!the!LAA!rates!
and!maximum!hours!were!too!low!to!obtain!the!expert!evidence!needed,!compelling!them!to!go!to!
court!without!that!evidence!and!try!to!establish!crucial!points!in!a!less!efficient!way.68!
!
Related!to!this,!there!are!two!other!key!points!of!departure!from!the!assumptions!of!standard!
market!models.!First,!research!has!already!shown!that!many!legal!services!are!not!scalable,!
particularly!in!social!welfare!law,!including!immigration.69!As!discussed!earlier!(under!‘Drivers!of!in-
case!demand’),!standardised!country!background!evidence!does!not!fulfil!the!needs!of!the!client,!the!
courts!or!the!case!and,!in!providing!work!of!little!value,!self-evidently!fails!to!provide!value!for!
money,!despite!being!cheap.!This!means!assumptions!about!economies!of!scale!are!misleading!and!
dangerous.!
!
Secondly,!the!most!efficient!choice!is!often!unpredictable.!A!partner!in!one!firm!explained!that!it!is!
largely!down!to!luck!whether!it!is!more!economical!for!his!staff!to!present!appeals!themselves!or!
instruct!a!barrister.!If!their!case!is!heard!early!and!they!are!back!in!the!office!by!lunchtime,!then!it!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
67!Adeline!Trude,!Cost'of'Quality'Legal'Advice:'Literature'Review'(Information!Centre!about!Asylum!and!
Refugees,!2009)!
68!Hilary!Sommerlad,!'Access!to!Justice!in!Hard!Times!and!the!Deconstruction!of!Democratic!Citizenship'!in!
Mavis!Maclean,!John!Eekelaar!and!Benoit!Bastard!(eds),!Delivering'Family'Justice'in'the'21st'Century!(Onati!
International!Series!in!Law!and!Society!(Hart!Publishing,!2015)!
69!Mayson!S,!Legal'Services'Reforms'and'Litigation!(College!of!Law!Legal!Services!Policy!Institute,!2007)!
!
30!
was!more!efficient!for!them!to!keep!the!case!in-house;!if!they!are!held!up!at!court!until!mid!or!late!
afternoon,!it!would!have!been!more!efficient!to!instruct!a!barrister.!!
!
!
The!combination!of!these!points!about!transaction!costs,!economies!of!scale!and!efficiency!which!
underpin!markets!mean!that!there!is!a!heightened!risk!that!prices!in!this!sector!will,!and!do,!lie!when!
fixed!by!a!monopsony!purchaser.!Transaction!costs!must!be!factored!into!the!fee!regime!as!a!matter!
Recommendations)
!
LAA/MoJ:)
•! Abandon!standard!fees!and!pay!for!all!cases!at!hourly!rates,!auditing!a!sample!of!
files!and!bills!for!each!organisation!or!barrister.!If!the!standard!fee!is!adequate!in!
most!cases,!this!should!not!lead!to!a!significant!increase!in!costs;!if!it!does!lead!to!
an!increase!in!costs,!it!suggests!the!standard!fee!was!not!adequate.!
•! As!an!alternative!to!abandoning!the!standard!fee,!reduce!the!escape!threshold!to!
double!the!standard!fee.!!
•! Restore!judicial!review!funding!to!the!pre-2013!position,!as!the!justification!for!
placing!all!risk!on!lawyers!in!judicial!review!applications!is!flimsy.!!
•! As!an!alternative,!if!there!are!evidence-based!concerns!that!some!lawyers!are!
carrying!out!unmerited!judicial!review!work!on!legal!aid!(rather!than!privately!
funded)!then!award!separate!schedules!on!contracts!allowing!only!the!higher!
quality!providers!(levels!one!and!two!on!peer!review)!to!do!judicial!review!work.!
•! Alternatively,!if!funding!is!to!remain!at!risk,!solicitors!should!be!given!a!delegated!
function!to!grant!conditional!funding,!and!the!costs!limits!on!certificates!should!be!
removed,!to!save!wasted!administration!time!where!there!is!no!risk!to!the!fund.!
•! Pay!barristers!directly!for!appeals!work,!rather!than!via!the!provider!claiming!them!
as!disbursements.!This!works!in!other!areas!of!law,!would!remove!a!source!of!cash!
flow!difficulty!for!barristers!(if!they!bill!promptly)!and!would!also!relieve!solicitors!
of!an!administrative!burden.!
•! Amend!the!procurement!practices!and!contract!terms!to!reduce!the!boom!and!bust!
pattern!and!reduce!unnecessary!transaction!costs.!
HMCTS:)
•! The!courts!should!grant!permission!in!judicial!review!or!appeal!cases!before!staying!
them!behind!test!litigation.!
•! The!disincentives!to!lawyers!requesting!court!assessment!of!costs!should!be!
reconsidered,!to!allow!for!fair!assessment!of!the!work!done.!!
HMRC:)
•! Legal!aid!lawyers!should!be!taxed!on!the!income!basis,!not!on!work!in!progress,!in!
respect!of!cases!where!money!is!owed!by!the!state.!This!could!be!achieved!by!
making!the!income!basis!available!to!any!lawyer!whose!billing!is!more!than,!for!
example,!30%!legal!aid.!
!
31!
of!urgency.!The!next!section!develops!this!point!by!exploring!the!auditing!and!quality!control!
regimes!in!more!detail.!
Auditing)and)quality)control)
The!LAA!lists!ten!different!types!of!audit!which!apply!to!immigration!and!asylum!providers.70!The!
annual!visit!from!the!Contract!Manager!and!the!‘core!testing’!of!a!random!sample!of!files!by!the!
Fund!Risk!File!Review!team,!apply!to!all!providers.!All!files!billed!at!the!escape!fee!(triple!the!fixed!
fee)!are!also!assessed,!along!with!a!sample!of!the!cases!where!providers!appeal!onward!to!the!
Upper!Tribunal!(UT)!–!despite!the!fact!that!they!are!only!paid!if!the!UT!grants!permission.!This!
means!those!who!do!the!more!advanced!or!complex!work!are!likely!to!receive!more!audit!attention!
overall.!
!
An!issue!arising!on!one!audit!triggers!various!extra!audits,!as!well!as!contract!sanctions.!Providers!
explained!that!minor!errors!in!core-testing!files!lead!to!them!having!to!‘self-review’!a!number!of!
files,!followed!up!with!a!further!audit!and!a!contract!notice!–!three!of!which!could!mean!loss!of!their!
contract.!All!of!the!provider!organisations!had!experienced!this!process!on!multiple!occasions,!
despite!all!but!one!being!peer-recognised!as!quality!providers.!One!had!had!to!self-review!200!files,!
which!was!negotiated!down!from!an!initial!instruction!to!self-review!600!files.!Another!had!to!self-
review!1,200!files.!A!third!had!to!self-review!50!cases!and!received!a!contract!notice,!plus!a!follow-
up!audit,!all!triggered!by!an!error!worth!£6.40!(because!a!caseworker!had!billed!travel!costs!from!
home!instead!of!the!office).!
!
Providers!argued!that!there!was!‘zero-tolerance!of!human!error’,!leading!to!‘petty!reasons’!for!
assessing!down!the!payments,!nil-assessing!files!(refusing!to!pay!at!all)!and!issuing!contract!notices,!
all!of!which!wasted!time!for!both!providers!and!the!LAA.!Examples!included!forgetting!to!tick!‘nil’!for!
each!item!of!income!or!capital!on!the!means!assessment!form,!not!for!the!client!herself!but!for!a!
non-existent!partner.!Although!the!client!was!clearly!eligible!for!legal!aid!and!the!solicitor!had!done!
the!work!claimed!for,!the!file!was!nil-assessed!and!a!contract!notice!given,!triggering!a!follow-up!
audit!as!well!as!the!provider!having!to!challenge!the!nil-assessment.!
!
A!further!source!of!errors!was!that!files!had!to!be!billed!with!codes!which!interviewees!described!as!
‘massively!complicated’,!representing!the!stage!of!the!case,!the!type!of!case!and!the!outcome.!A!
not-for-profit!solicitor!explained,!however,!that!there!was!‘no!code!for!“I!got!refugee!status!for!this!
client”’!because!the!codes!reflected!the!outdated!position!where!applicants!granted!asylum!were!
given!Exceptional!Leave!to!Remain,!a!status!which!no!longer!exists.!All!providers!interviewed!had!
experienced!problems!with!wrong!billing!codes.!
!
Solicitors!in!this!study!were!frustrated!that!they!still!had!to!apply!to!the!LAA!for!funding!before!
starting!a!judicial!review,!even!though!the!work!is!at!risk.!Only!the!court!fee,!disbursements!and!any!
applications!for!interim!relief!are!covered!unless!permission!is!granted,!therefore!the!application!
process!was!seen!as!a!waste!of!both!lawyers’!and!LAA!time!for!no!apparent!policy!reason.!A!related!
frustration!explained!by!one!solicitor!was!that,!regardless!of!the!costs!she!applied!for,!even!when!
the!work!was!at!risk,!she!was!given!a!default!costs!limit!of!£1,350,!after!which!she!had!to!apply!to!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
70!Legal!Aid!Agency:!https://www.gov.uk/guidance/legal-aid-agency-audits!
!
32!
amend!the!scope!of!the!funding!certificate,!despite!the!fact!that!nothing!would!be!paid!at!all!unless!
she!obtained!permission!(or!met!one!of!the!exemption!categories)!and,!if!she!obtained!permission,!
the!costs!would!likely!not!come!from!the!legal!aid!fund.!Lawyers!argued!that!they!should!be!given!a!
delegated!function!to!grant!this!funding!to!themselves!for!at-risk!work,!saving!resources!for!both!
LAA!and!providers.!
!
The!auditing!and!assessment!meant!a!constant!‘low-level!back!and!forth’!between!providers!and!the!
LAA,!which!was!unpaid.!Limits!on!the!amount!which!could!be!billed!for!various!tasks!were!not!
consistent!with!the!time!these!actually!took,!meaning!it!was!difficult!to!make!files!‘look!perfect’!as!
the!case!went!along,!yet!they!needed!to!look!perfect!if!called!for!core!testing,!suggesting!that!the!
LAA!wanted!files!in!a!condition!which!was!not!consistent!with!the!price!it!paid!for!them.!!
In!legal!aid!contracts,!the!extensive!compliance!auditing!regime!and!the!‘low-level!back!and!forth’!
between!providers!and!the!LAA!add!greatly!to!the!transaction!costs!on!both!sides.!Providers!
explained!that!they!had!adapted!to!the!audits!by!changing!procedures!to!avoid!problems!–!‘we’ve!
tightened!up’!-!but!that!was!‘hugely!time-consuming’!and!had!a!cost!in!terms!of!time!available!for!
clients!and!casework.!This!has!been!described!elsewhere!as!an!‘evaluatory!trap’!whereby!audits!
increase!the!unit-cost!of!providing!public!services,!without!clear!evidence!that!the!audits!add!
value.71!In!some!organisations,!a!partner!or!senior!member!of!staff!had!stopped!or!almost!stopped!
doing!legal!casework!in!order!to!manage!the!contract;!in!others!a!practice!manager!had!been!
employed!for!that!task,!because!the!risk!of!errors!and!contract!sanctions!was!otherwise!too!high.!It!
is!difficult!to!square!these!practices!with!a!rhetoric!of!increased!efficiency!and!reduced!cost!in!the!
market-based!procurement!system.!!
!
The!unpaid!time!providers!spent!on!the!‘low-level!back!and!forth’,!‘protecting!work’!against!the!
funder’s!‘unreliable’!decision-making!and!dealing!with!‘forensic!investigation!of!the!client’s!means’!
was!not!envisaged!in!the!Carter!review!of!legal!aid;!rather!Carter’s!recommendations!were!based!on!
the!assumption!that!the!procurer!would!trust!the!supplier,!subject!to!quality!pre-requisites!
underpinned!by!peer!review!scores!in!the!top!two!levels.72!Instead,!practitioners!argue!that!the!LAA!
contracted!with!all!bidders!and!then!micromanaged!and!mistrusted!all!providers!equally.73!One!
provider!criticised!the!LAA!for!a!‘kneejerk!reaction!to!its!own!incompetence’,!so!that!when!a!large!
firm,!Blavo!and!Co,!was!closed!down!by!regulators!for!serious!legal!aid!fraud,74!there!was!a!‘sudden!
suspicion’!that!other!firms!were!committing!a!similar!fraud.!!
!
No!provider!I!interviewed!questioned!the!LAA’s!right!and!responsibility!to!audit.!But!overall,!they!
described!the!relationship!as!‘hostile’,!‘punitive’!and!as!having!lost!all!pragmatism!since!the!LSC!had!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
71!Olov!Olson,!Christopher!Humphrey!and!James!Guthrie,!'Caught!in!an!evaluatory!trap:!a!dilemma!for!public!
services!under!NPFM'!(2001)!European!Accounting!Review!vol!10!issue!3!p505!
72!Lord!Carter!of!Coles,!Legal'Aid:'A'market-based'approach'to'reform!(2006)!
73!Alison!Harvey,!'Legal!aid:!welcome!to!Laa!Laa!land'!(2013)!Journal!of!Immigration,!Asylum!and!Nationality!
Law!vol!27!p102!
74!The!firm!was!accused!of!having!made!24,658!claims!for!Tribunal!attendance,!94%!of!which!had!never!taken!
place:!Nick!Hilborne,!‘High!Court!ruling!outlines!extraordinary!scale!of!allegations!against!Blavo!and!Co’!(Legal!
Futures!blog,!2!February!2016)!https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/high-court-ruling-outlines-
extraordinary-scale-of-allegations-against-blavo-co,!accessed!4!October!2018!
!
33!
its!accounts!qualified!for!four!successive!years!by!the!National!Audit!Office.75!One!said!it!was,!‘A!
nightmare.!You!can!quote!me!on!that.!My!relationship!with!the!LAA!is!a!nightmare.’!Another,!who!
had!just!given!up!their!contract,!described!it!as!‘like!an!abusive!relationship’!while!a!not-for-profit!
solicitor!said!the!work!had!‘never!been!more!stressful,!because!of!dealing!with!the!LAA’!–!so!much!
so!that!he!had!reduced!his!working!days!and!‘would!like!to!leave!legal!aid!altogether’.!!
!
These!issues!are!reflected!in!other!public!services,!which!have!been!subject!to!what!Power!called!the!
‘audit!explosion’!or!the!‘audit!culture’.76!Shore!argues!it!is!not!the!auditing!itself!that!is!problematic!
but!rather!the!‘slippage…![from]!audit!as!a!method!of!financial!verification!and!bookkeeping,![to]!
audit!as!a!generalised!model!(and!technology)!of!governance.77!The!LAA!officials!I!interviewed!
agreed!that!criticism!from!the!National!Audit!Office!was!responsible!for!the!change!in!approach.!This!
suggests!that!auditing!bodies!now!play!a!significant,!if!hidden,!role!in!policy-making!and!the!
interpretation!of!the!contract.!
!!
There!has!been!a!shift,!in!legal!aid,!from!a!position!of!(arguably!too)!minimal!bureaucratic!control!
and!surveillance,!to!one!where!surveillance!is!costly!in!terms!of!both!money!and!time,!both!to!the!
funding!agency!and!the!providers,!but!nevertheless!fails!to!provide!any!information!about!
substantive!quality.!The!‘correct’!level!and!type!of!auditing!will!always!be!a!subjective!judgement!but!
it!is!doubtful!whether!such!an!intensive!and!expensive,!yet!superficial,!surveillance!system!either!
reduces!the!costs!or!ensures!the!substantive!quality!of!the!service.!Reforming!this!will!require!co-
operation!between!the!LAA!and!National!Audit!Office,!as!well!as!practitioner!representative!bodies,!
to!identify!a!compromise!position.!
!
Performance)targets)and)standards)
Audit-related!targets!can!also!be!seen!to!have!created!perverse!incentives!which!might!not!be!in!the!
service!user’s!interests.!This!seems!to!happen!in!two!main!ways.!Firstly,!the!‘gaming’!of!targets!has!
been!much!discussed!in!public!services!literature!–!changing!behaviour!to!meet!the!target!and!avoid!
sanctions,!even!where!this!results!in!a!worse!service.!Secondly,!John!Seddon!has!explored!how!
targets!often!create!extra!work!to!comply!with!standards!which!are!set!up!to!manage!the!wrong!
thing.78!
!
Behaviour!aimed!at!meeting!targets!can!be!seen!in!response!to!the!Key!Performance!Indicator!for!
immigration!providers,!who!must!maintain!a!40%!success!rate!on!appeals!(notwithstanding!that!this!
information!is!no!longer!collected!from!providers).!Interviewees!said!the!requirement!led!some!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
75!Each!year!from!200809!to!201112!inclusive:!Legal!Services!Commission,!Annual'Report'and'Accounts!
(201213)!
76!Cris!Shore,!'Audit!culture!and!Illiberal!governance:!Universities!and!the!politics!of!accountability'!(2008)!
Anthropological!Theory!vol!8!issue!3!p278;!Martin!A!Mills,!Cris!Shore!and!Sue!Wright,!'Audit!Culture!and!
Anthropology'!(2000)!The!Journal!of!the!Royal!Anthropological!Institute!vol!6!issue!3!p521;!See!also!Marilyn!
Strathern!(ed),!Audit'cultures:'Anthropological'studies'in'accountability,'ethics,'and'the'academy!(Psychology!
Press,!2000)!
77!Cris!Shore,!'Audit!culture!and!Illiberal!governance:!Universities!and!the!politics!of!accountability'!(2008)!
Anthropological!Theory!vol!8!issue!3!p278,!at!p290!
78!John!Seddon,!Systems'thinking'in'the'public'sector:'the'failure'of'the'reform'regime''and'a'manifesto'for'a'
better'way!(Triarchy,!2008);!John!Seddon,!Freedom'from'command'and'control:'a'better'way'to'make'the'work'
work!(Vanguard!Education,!2003)!
!
34!
firms!to!refuse!funding!for!appeals!in!complex!cases!which!would!need!more!work!to!succeed.!
Unaccompanied!children!seeking!asylum!suffered!particularly!from!this!practice,!since!those!refused!
asylum!were!usually!granted!short-term!leave!to!remain!until!adulthood.!Wishing!to!avoid!the!risk!to!
their!success!rates,!many!solicitors!were!advising!children!to!accept!the!limited!leave!and!not!appeal!
their!asylum!refusal!decisions,!meaning!the!child!lost!the!opportunity!to!have!an!appeal!on!the!
somewhat!more!favourable!view!afforded!to!minors.!
!!
Interpreters!provide!a!good!example!of!misconceived!standards.!Regulatory!reports!had!shown!that!
some!providers!were!making!unethical!use!of!interpreters,!either!to!bring!in!clients!for!the!
interpreter’s!financial!benefit,!compromising!the!provider’s!independence,!or!to!do!work!which!
should!have!been!done!by!caseworkers.79!One!solicitor!gave!me!numerous!examples!of!poor!
practice!at!a!previous!firm,!including!an!interpreter!attempting!to!falsify!evidence!in!respect!of!a!
child!the!interpreter!had!brought!to!the!firm,!and!the!firm!failing!to!stop!working!with!that!
interpreter;!interpreters!demanding!(successfully)!to!be!paid!for!a!full!hour!of!interpreting!for!each!
of!four!clients!brought!to!the!firm,!for!whom!the!interpreter!did!one!hour!of!work!in!total;!
interpreters!being!left!to!read!back!interviews!to!clients!with!no!caseworker!present;!and!so!on.!The!
Solicitor’s!Regulation!Authority’s!report!contained!similar!concerns!about!inappropriate!influence!of!
interpreters.80!The!problem!is!not!simply!an!interpreter!who!works!for!a!firm!taking!potential!clients!
to!that!firm,!but!rather!that!the!interpreter!should!not!then!benefit!financially!(by!receiving!paid!
work)!for!doing!so.!An!independent!interpreter!should!be!used.!
!
In!response,!the!LAA!added!a!new!standard!into!the!specification!for!the!2018!contracts,!relating!to!
interpreter!qualifications.!A!representative!of!ILPA!explained!that!this!added!yet!another!
administrative!burden!on!providers,!to!check!the!qualifications!of!the!interpreter!and!stop!working!
with!some!experienced!and!expert!interpreters,!since!many!did!not!obtain!qualifications.!Yet!the!
new!standard!did!not!address!the!actual!problem:!an!interpreter!could!still!behave!unethically!
despite!having!the!required!qualification;!a!provider!could!still!use!interpreters!inappropriately!
despite!the!interpreter’s!qualification.!The!new!standards!were!therefore!seen!as!reactive!and!not!
effective,!adding!extra!work!without!a!clear!link!to!improved!work!or!protection!for!clients.!
!
Peer)review)
The!only!substantive!quality!monitoring!comes!in!the!form!of!peer!reviews,!which!are!carried!out!by!
a!panel!of!reviewers!who!are!specialists!in!the!area!of!law.!Interviewees!generally!considered!peer!
review!the!best!available!method.!The!Carter!recommendations!in!2006!envisaged!peer!review!as!a!
basis!for!determining!who!would!receive!a!contract,!with!a!minimum!threshold!of!level!two!(the!
second-highest,!out!of!five)!on!peer!review.!It!is!relatively!little!used,!possibly!because!of!cost,!and!
its!effectiveness!is!compromised!by!the!fact!that!level!three!(threshold!competence)!is!sufficient!to!
obtain!or!retain!a!contract.81!There!is!no!priority!at!all!given!to!those!achieving!higher!quality.!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
79!MigrationWork,!Refugee!Action!and!Asylum!Research!Consultancy,!Quality'of'Legal'Services'for'Asylum'
Seekers!(2016);!Solicitors!Regulation!Authority,!Asylum'Report:'The'quality'of'legal'service'provided'to'asylum'
seekers'(SRA,!2016)!
80!Solicitors!Regulation!Authority,!Asylum'Report:'The'quality'of'legal'service'provided'to'asylum'seekers'(SRA,!
2016);!MigrationWork,!Refugee!Action!and!Asylum!Research!Consultancy,!Quality'of'Legal'Services'for'Asylum'
Seekers'(SRA,!2016)!
81!Jane!Hickman!and!Sue!Pearson,!'The!Legal!Aid!Market'!April!2007!Legal!Action!6!
!
35!
!
Providers!are!selected!for!peer!review!in!a!mixture!of!random!sampling!and!targeted!concerns.!The!
LAA’s!list!of!contract!terminations!shows!that!some!firms!have!had!contracts!terminated!for!
receiving!two!peer!reviews!at!the!lowest!levels!(four!or!five),!but!they!are!not!routinely!carried!out!in!
the!period!before!a!contract!tender.!A!high!percentage!of!immigration!and!asylum!providers,!
compared!with!other!legal!aid!areas,!received!level!four!(below!competence)!on!peer!review.82!!
Even!were!this!to!be!taken!as!evidence!that!the!system!is!successful!at!targeting!‘problem’!providers,!
it!still!suggests!the!Legal!Aid!Agency!(LAA)!is!contracting!with!too!many!poor-quality!providers.!In!
201718,!12!providers!scored!below!competence!(level!four).!This!amounts!to!5%!of!the!234!
providers!who!had!a!contract!in!August!2017.!
!
Figure!9:!Peer!review!outcomes!in!civil!and!family!law,!20171883!
!
Peer!review!in!the!formal!sense!is!not!used!with!barristers!but,!as!barrister!interviewees!put!it,!‘you!
get!one!chance’!and!if!the!solicitor!is!not!satisfied,!they!will!not!instruct!the!barrister!again.!Both!
barristers!and!solicitors!said!that,!for!barristers,!the!market!is!generally!capable!of!ensuring!quality!
and!compelling!poor-quality!barristers!to!leave!the!market.!Choice!based!on!reputation,!exercised!by!
the!(usually)!well-informed!solicitor!or!caseworker,!appears!to!be!a!reasonably!effective!quality!
control!mechanism,!though!this!may!be!in!doubt!where!there!is!a!limited!supply!of!specialist!
barristers!in!a!geographical!area.!This!is!also!subject!to!the!caveat!that!the!instructing!solicitor!or!
caseworker!must!be!sufficiently!skilled!to!discern!quality!in!the!barrister’s!work.!
!
!As!the!next!section!shows,!however,!there!are!limits!to!the!extent!to!which!market!forces!are!
capable!of!ensuring!quality.!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
82!It!is!important!to!note!that!immigration!also!had!the!highest!percentage!of!providers!attaining!the!highest!
level!on!peer!review.!
83!Minutes!of!the!Civil!Contracts!Consultative!Group!(CCCG)!meeting!24!January!2018!available!at!
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contracts-consultative-groups,!accessed!13!February!2019!
0
20
40
Level!1 Level!4
Peer!Review!Outcomes,!2017-18
Immigration Family Mental!health Housing
!
36!
!
!
Market)forces)and)quality)control)
Protection)of)poor-quality)providers)
The!idea!of!markets!for!public!services!is!that!they!should!control!both!price!and!quality.!
Competition!between!‘suppliers’!should!keep!price!down!and!quality!up,!because!of!the!need!to!
attract!customers.!According!to!Public!Choice!Theory,!when!parents!have!a!choice!of!school,!or!
when!patients!have!a!choice!of!hospital!or!family!doctor,!when!clients!have!a!choice!of!legal!aid!
lawyer,!they!will!choose!one!which!has!a!good!reputation.!They!will!complain!or!campaign!for!
improvements!when!the!quality!is!not!good!enough,!and!they!will!leave!for!an!alternative!‘supplier’!
if!quality!doesn’t!improve.!These!strategies!are!called!‘choice,!voice!and!exit’.84!
!
But!the!existing!system!protects!the!market!position!of!poor-quality!providers!in!four!main!ways.!
First,!clients!with!asylum!legal!aid!cases!are!most!often!newly!arrived,!accommodated!on!a!no-
choice!basis!in!a!part!of!the!country!where!there!may!be!few!or!no!legal!aid!asylum!lawyers,!with!no!
information!at!all!about!the!reputation!of!the!different!providers.!That!means!the!‘choice’!strategy!is!
ineffective.!
!
Second,!the!auditing!regime!(by!its!own!admission)!is!largely!unable!to!discern!substantive!quality!–!
that!is,!whether!the!advice!given!is!correct,!whether!the!instructions!taken!from!the!client!are!
detailed!enough,!whether!the!lawyer!does!enough!evidence!gathering.!This!is!only!assessed!on!peer!
review,!which!is!little-used.!That,!combined!with!the!standard!fee,!means!there!is!a!strong!incentive!
to!cut!quality!and!work!within!the!guaranteed!payment.!The!risk!of!losing!almost!double!the!
standard!fee!is!a!strong!disincentive!to!incur!costs!about!that!level.!!
!
Third,!it!is!already!clear!that!most!asylum!seekers!do!not!complain!about!poor-quality!
representation.!The!Legal!Ombudsman!jointly!commissioned!research!on!quality!and!redress!
because!of!concerns!that!the!complaints!process!does!not!work!for!this!client!group.!There!is!no!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
84!Albert!O!Hirschman,!Exit,'voice,'and'loyalty:'responses'to'decline'in'firms,'organizations,'and'states!(Harvard!
University!Press,!1970!
Recommendations)
)
LAA)
•! Increase!the!minimum!peer!review!score!for!contract!holders!to!two,!underpinned!
by!either!payment!of!hourly!rates!or!reducing!the!escape!fee!threshold!to!double!the!
standard!fee.!
Take!a!more!pragmatic!approach!to!auditing!which!differentiates!between!providers!
on!grounds!of!quality!and!which!avoids!punitive!sanctions!and!minimises!transaction!
costs!in!cases!of!human!error!or!minimal!risk!to!the!legal!aid!fund.!This!should!be!
developed!in!partnership!with!the!National!Audit!Office!and!providers!to!ensure!a!
collaborative!approach.!
!
37!
legal!assistance!for!the!complaints!process,!and!most!clients!do!not!feel!able!to!undertake!it!alone,!
even!if!they!understand!their!right!to!complain.85!That!means!the!‘voice’!strategy!is!also!ineffective.!
!
Fourth,!and!perhaps!most!significantly,!even!if!they!discover!the!existing!lawyer!is!doing!a!poor-
quality!job,!clients!cannot!change!to!another!legal!aid!provider!unless!they!have!been!through!the!
complaints!process!and!had!a!complaint!upheld.!That!means!the!‘exit’!strategy!is!explicitly!barred!for!
this!group,!unless!they!can!obtain!money!to!pay!privately.!
!
The!level!of!demand,!plus!limits!on!capacity!in!high-quality!providers,!mean!that!poor-quality!
suppliers!are!virtually!assured!of!a!supply!of!clients!who!are!unable!to!move!elsewhere!once!their!
case!is!taken!on.!Far!from!ensuring!quality,!the!market!as!currently!structured!actively!protects!the!
market!position!of!poor-quality!suppliers.!It!results!in!a!‘lemon!market’86!(see!next!section)!in!which!
the!‘seller’!is!most!rewarded!for!providing!a!below-average-quality!service,!and!is!likely!to!incur!
financial!losses!when!providing!a!better-than-average!service.!The!consequence!is!that!high-quality!
supply!is!reduced,!while!poor-quality!supply!is!largely!maintained!or!increased.!This,!taken!together!
with!the!availability!of!contracts!to!providers!peer-reviewed!as!just-about!competent,!essentially!
cancels!out!any!power!of!the!market!to!ensure!quality.!
!
Driving)down)quality)
A!much-cited!economics!paper!by!George!Akerlof!in!1970!draws!on!the!used-car!market!to!show!
how,!when!quality!is!not!readily!inspectable!by!a!purchaser,!purchasers!treat!quality!as!uncertain!
and!will!only!be!willing!to!pay!the!value!of!an!average!item.87!This!means!those!who!have!a!poor-
quality!item!–!‘a!lemon’!–!have!an!incentive!to!sell,!as!the!average!price!is!more!than!the!item!is!
worth.!Those!who!have!a!high-quality!item!–!‘a!peach’!–!have!an!incentive!to!withdraw!their!product!
from!the!market,!since!the!average!price!is!below!its!value.!Over!time!this!leads!to!withdrawal!of!
high-quality!goods!and!the!creation!of!a!‘lemon!market’!characterised!by!poor-quality!goods.!As!
Akerlof!put!it,!‘Both!the!supply!of!used!cars!and!also!the!average!quality!will!depend!upon!the!
price.’88!!
!
Asylum!legal!services!are!obviously!not!the!same!as!used!cars,!but!can!this!metaphor!help!in!
understanding!quality!in!publicly-funded!legal!services!too?!A!fixed!price!applies!to!most!cases,!
which!represents!the!intended!or!expected!average!cost.!The!purchaser!(the!LAA)!chooses!not!to!
distinguish!between!suppliers!on!the!basis!of!quality,!beyond!imposing!certain!minimum!standards.!!
!
As!discussed!above,!some!suppliers!appear!to!cap!their!work!at!the!fixed!fee,!akin!to!the!average!
price.89!On!one!level,!this!is!reasonable,!since!most!businesses!are!not!expected!to!give!out!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
85!The!SRA!report!indicated!many!did!not!understand!their!right!to!complain,!even!when!it!was!mentioned!in!
the!client!care!letter.!
86!George!Akerlof,!'The!Market!for!"Lemons":!Qualitative!Uncertainty!and!Market!Mechanisms'!(1970)!The!
Quarterly!Journal!of!Economics!vol!84!issue!3!p488!
87!ibid!!
88!ibid,!p490!
89!This!assertion!is!supported!by!a!Freedom!of!Information!request!reported!by!the!charity!Asylum!Aid,!
showing!that!73%!of!providers!earned!more!on!fixed!fees!than!they!would!have!received!on!hourly!rates!in!
200910:!Deri!Hughes-Roberts,!Rethinking'Asylum'Legal'Representation:'Promoting'quality'and'innovation'at'
a'time'of'austerity'(Asylum!Aid,!2013)!
!
38!
substantial!amounts!of!free!goods!or!services.!However,!interviewees!also!believed!certain!providers!
used!low!fees!as!an!‘excuse’!for!doing!minimal!work!or!using!inexperienced!and!under-supervised!
workers,!or!simply!‘don’t!understand!how!to!add!value’!in!a!case.!Since!substantive!quality!is!not!
monitored,!there!was!little!incentive!for!a!low-skilled!provider!to!improve!its!work.!
!
Because!of!the!limited!use!of!substantive!quality!measurement!(i.e.!peer!review)!and!because!peer!
review!data!is!not!directly!comparable!over!time,!it!is!not!possible!to!prove!(or!disprove)!that!
average!quality!in!the!market!is!going!down.!The!peer!review!data!shows!levels!of!excellence!over!
and!above!other!areas!of!law,!as!well!as!too!many!poor-quality!providers.!While!my!research!
focussed!on!the!excellent!lawyers,!carrying!out!high-quality!work!for!vulnerable!clients!out!of!
commitment!to!the!client!group,!it!also!identified!evidence!that!other!providers’!work!is!minimal,!
adds!no!value!to!the!case,!and!may!even!harm!the!case.!
!
Of!course,!a!used!car!still!exists,!whether!or!not!it!is!put!on!the!market,!whereas!legal!services!only!
exist!when!they!are!actually!performed.!But!the!‘lemon!market’!metaphor!nevertheless!explains!why!
the!legal!aid!market!fails!to!ensure!either!supply!or!quality!of!services,!so!long!as!the!purchaser!
ignores!substantive!quality.!If!fewer!high-quality!services!(or!matter!starts)!are!put!into!the!market,!
while!the!same!or!a!higher!number!of!poor-quality!ones!are!performed,!the!overall!quality!in!the!
market!goes!down.!Some!of!those!withdrawn!services!will!be!tradeable!in!other!markets,!such!as!
privately!paid!legal!services,!and!most!providers!studied!in!this!research!were!choosing!either!to!
trade!more!of!their!services!in!the!private-client!market,!or!to!offer!more!services!into!other!areas!of!
law!or!non-casework!projects. !
However,!a!key!difference!exacerbates!the!lemon!
market!effect!in!legal!aid,!namely!the!LAA’s!position!
as!a!monopsony!purchaser.!It!uses!this!power!to!
drive!down!prices!and!impose!other!terms!but!does!
not!use!it!to!distinguish!on!grounds!of!quality,!either!
in!terms!of!access!to!the!market!(awarding!
contracts)!or!contract!terms.!In!effect!it!treats!all!
providers!as!average,!implementing!a!level!of!
monitoring!which!is!disproportionate!in!resource!
terms!to!the!risk!posed!by!the!high-quality!providers!but!fails!to!identify!the!defects!in!the!poor-
quality!services.!!
!
LAA!officials!I!interviewed!pointed!out!that!there!are!always!bids!for!work!when!they!tender!for!
contracts!in!asylum!and!immigration,!indicating!that!the!price!and!other!contract!terms!are!
adequate!for!efficient!providers.!However,!this!research!suggests!an!alternative!explanation,!namely!
that!organisations!which!are!determined!to!remain!in!the!legal!aid!market!find!alternative!sources!of!
income,!such!as!privately!paying!clients!or!charitable!grants!and!subsidies!but!reduce!their!market!
share!by!limiting!team!capacity!or!diverting!resources!into!non-legal!aid!work!to!limit!their!losses.!
Providers!which!are!willing!to!deliver!a!service!which!makes!a!profit!despite!the!fixed!fee,!by!doing!
less!than!or!no!more!than!the!work!paid!for,!seek!to!enter!the!market!or!to!maintain!or!increase!
their!market!share.!In!this!way,!the!average!quality!of!services!sold!in!the!market!declines!and!the!
!
39!
discrepancy!between!the!best!quality!and!the!average!quality!widens,!and!the!average!quality!
declines!to!a!level!which!fails!to!meet!the!client’s!or!the!system’s!needs.!
Supply)
Advice)deserts)and)droughts)
The!term!‘advice!deserts’!has!become!familiar,!referring!to!areas!of!the!country!where!there!is!no!
legal!aid!provision!at!all!for!a!particular!area!of!law.!But!there!are!also!advice!droughts!–!areas!where!
there!appears!to!be!provision,!because!there!are!unused!matter!starts!in!the!geographical!area,!but!
in!practice!this!is!not!accessible!because!providers!have!no!(or!limited)!capacity!to!open!new!cases.!!
!
It!is!important!to!differentiate!between!matter!starts!and!capacity!–!or!between!notional!and!
functional!capacity.!Matter!starts!are!the!notional!capacity!–!how!many!new!cases!a!provider!is!
permitted!to!open!within!that!contracting!period.!But!having!a!contract!for!200!matter!starts!in!a!
year!does!not!mean!the!provider!has!functional!capacity!to!open!four!new!cases!in!any!given!week.!
None!of!the!not-for-profit!providers!interviewed!used!all!of!their!matter!starts!in!a!year,!yet!all!were!
turning!away!potential!clients.!
!
In!one!area,!where!there!was!only!one!provider!in!the!‘access!point’,90!support!groups!had!great!
difficulty!in!referring!clients!to!lawyers.!The!only!other!provider!had!left!the!market,!which!had!
removed!two-thirds!of!the!matter!starts!in!the!access!point.!The!sole!remaining!provider!had!
effectively!unlimited!demand.!It!had!already!halved!the!size!of!its!immigration!and!asylum!team!in!
order!to!keep!its!legal!aid!losses!to!a!level!which!it!could!subsidise!from!other!income.!It!had!made!a!
decision!to!prioritise!work!for!unaccompanied!children!and!the!most!vulnerable!adults.!This!meant!
all!other!potential!clients!had!to!look!outside!the!area!for!representation.!!
!
But,!since!this!sole!provider!did!not!use!all!of!its!matter!starts!in!any!contract!year,!a!‘capacity!
review’!which!focused!solely!on!the!number!of!unused!matter!starts!in!the!system!would!fail!to!
reveal!the!severe!capacity!crisis!in!the!area.!Asked!about!this!scenario,!a!Legal!Aid!Agency!official!
suggested!that!the!single!provider!would!be!given!more!matter!starts!to!meet!the!need,!but!the!
provider!was!unable!to!afford!to!increase!its!capacity,!because!it!had!placed!a!cap!on!the!losses!it!
was!willing!to!subsidise!from!other!resources.!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
90!For!legal!aid!purposes,!the!country!is!broken!down!administratively!into!five!procurement!areas!!London!
and!South-East;!Midlands!and!East!of!England;!North-East,!Yorkshire!and!Humber;!South-West;!and!Wales!!
each!of!which!is!divided!into!access!points.!
Recommendations)
LAA:)
•! Increase!the!minimum!peer!review!score!for!contract!holders!to!two,!underpinned!
by!either!payment!of!hourly!rates!or!reducing!the!escape!fee!threshold!to!double!
the!standard!fee.!
Allow!clients!to!change!provider!if!dissatisfied,!and!take!steps!to!make!file!transfer!
easier.!
!
40!
!
Advice!droughts,!then,!are!these!areas!which!do!not!show!up!as!‘deserts’!on!the!map!but!where!
supply!is!unavailable!or!severely!limited!in!practice.!A!drought!can!also!exist!where!there!are!
multiple!providers.!A!barrister!in!Manchester!explained!that,!despite!there!being!a!number!of!
providers!in!Greater!Manchester,!at!one!point!during!the!study!period,!Tribunal!cases!had!to!be!
adjourned!because!appellants!were!unable!to!find!representatives.!When!I!followed!this!up,!several!
providers!in!that!area!explained!that!they!had!unused!matter!starts!but!had!no!capacity!to!open!new!
cases.!
!
Advice!droughts!can!apply!to!a!particular!type!of!work:!for!example!OISC-regulated!advisers!cannot!
have!conduct!of!judicial!reviews,!so!some!organisations!have!to!refer!out!all!judicial!review!work.!In!
some!areas,!there!is!only!one!provider.!If!that!provider!is!OISC-regulated,!a!person!in!need!of!judicial!
review!advice!or!representation!has!to!look!outside!the!area.!In!Devon,!this!is!particularly!acute!
since!there!are!no!suppliers!to!the!south!or!in!the!two!counties!to!the!north,!meaning!would-be!
clients!have!to!travel!to!Southampton!or!Wiltshire!(which!have!one!provider!each)!or!Bristol!for!the!
nearest!alternative,!although!the!overall!supply!map!would!suggest!advice!is!available.!Often,!this!
duplicates!work,!and!cost,!as!a!new!provider!has!to!start!afresh!with!the!case.!And!it!means!that!
need!manifests!in!a!different!part!of!the!country!from!where!it!originated.!In!this!context,!it!is!
seriously!problematic!that!there!is!no!attempt!to!map!demand,!nor!a!clear!understanding!of!where!
and!whether!a!meaningful!supply!exists.!
!
Under!the!new!rules,!from!September!2018,!it!appeared!that!there!was!also!a!new!kind!of!advice!
drought!for!onward!appeals!to!the!Upper!Tribunal.!This!work!was!moved!from!the!Controlled!Work!
category!(which!all!providers!could!do)!to!Licensed!Work!(which!OISC-regulated!providers!cannot!
do).!The!LAA!informed!the!sole!supplier!for!Plymouth!and!Devon!that!it!could!continue!doing!the!
work;!however!because!it!had!no!way!of!applying!for!funding!to!do!Licensed!Work,!it!currently!has!
to!contact!the!LAA!and!set!up!the!funding!manually!for!each!Upper!Tribunal!case.!!
!
The!2018!contracts!gave!more!flexibility!around!matter!starts!and,!in!many!cases,!gave!far!more!
matter!starts!per!provider.!For!example,!Leicester!went!from!four!providers!holding!326!matter!
starts!between!them!to!five!providers!with!a!total!of!900!matter!starts;!the!sole!provider!in!North!
East!Wales!went!from!21!to!300;!Hampshire!went!from!two!providers!and!165!matter!starts!to!three!
with!600.!In!the!sense!that!this!removes!artificial!restrictions!on!client!access,!it!is!a!positive!move.!
!
But!it!is!particularly!important!to!recognise!that!an!increase!in!matter!starts!(notional!supply)!does!
not!mean!any!provider!has!increased!its!functional!capacity!to!take!on!cases,!particularly!standard!
fee!cases.!Providers!who!told!me!they!never!used!all!of!their!matter!starts!in!a!year,!and!had!no!
plans!to!increase!capacity,!nevertheless!received!higher!allocations!of!matter!starts!from!September!
2018.!There!is!an!acute!need!for!the!LAA!to!implement!intelligent!feedback!loops!to!give!it!critical!
information!about!functional!supply!and!not!to!rely!on!unused!matter!starts!as!a!measure!of!
capacity!under!the!new!contracts.!Neither!providers!nor!practitioner!organisations!can!do!this:!it!has!
to!be!done!at!policy!level!by!carrying!out!or!commissioning!research!into!the!unmet!need!in!the!
system.!
!
41!
!
Supply)in)detention)
Home!Office!statistics!show!a!30%!drop!in!the!number!of!people!detained!at!the!end!of!December!
2018,!compared!with!the!previous!December,!to!the!lowest!number!since!at!least!2009.!Some!
detention!support!groups!confirm!the!reduced!number!of!people!in!detention,!which!the!Home!
Office!states,!‘follows!the!introduction!of!the!new!Immigration!Bail!in!Schedule!10!of!the!
Immigration!Bill!2016!(15!January!2018),!and!changes!across!the!immigration!system!following!
Windrush.’91!This!fall!is!to!be!welcomed,!but!left!1,784!people!in!the!detention!estate!as!of!the!end!
of!the!year!and!24,748!entering!detention!during!the!year.!!
!
Legal!advice!in!detention!is!provided!through!Detention!Duty!Advice!rotas.!Until!September!2018,!
each!detention!centre!had!two!to!four!providers,!each!undertaking!a!week!in!turn!on!the!rota,!
providing!up!to!ten!half-hour!advice!slots!each!day!(typically!four!days!a!week).!Since!the!new!
contracts!were!awarded!in!autumn!2018,!a!much!larger!number!of!firms!(around!75)!is!involved!with!
provision!at!each!centre,!the!vast!majority!of!which!have!no!prior!experience!in!doing!detention!
centre!advice!work.!Typically,!each!has!about!three!weeks!in!a!year!on!the!rota.!!
!
This!is!of!concern!because!detention!centre!work!is!often!very!different!in!nature!from!non-detained!
work.!New!providers!may!not!only!lack!the!skills!and!expertise!when!they!enter!the!market,!but!may!
also!be!unable!to!build!up!that!expertise!with!so!little!detained!work.!For!example,!a!bail!application!
for!a!former!prisoner!who!has!been!detained!under!immigration!powers!requires!understanding!of!a!
complex!array!of!provisions!for!bail!accommodation!and!engagement!with!probation!officers!who!
(particularly!outside!London)!frequently!have!limited!understanding!of!the!policies!and!protocols!for!
providing!accommodation!to!a!foreign!national!leaving!immigration!detention.!The!number!of!EU!
nationals!detained!rose!in!2017,!creating!extra!demand!for!expertise!on!EU!free!movement!rules!–!
an!area!which!is!now!outside!the!scope!of!legal!aid!but!has!an!obvious!bearing!on!the!lawfulness!of!
detention.!Meanwhile!the!experienced!detention!providers!are!likely!to!become!deskilled!in!the!
detention!context:!one!has!gone!from!50!down!to!six!rota!weeks!per!year,!meaning!many!staff!will!
no!longer!do!any!detention!centre!work.!
!
The!new!contracts!appear!to!create!detention-specific!forms!of!advice!drought.!Firms!which!are!
OISC-accredited!cannot!take!on!judicial!review!work!for!detainees,!as!explained!in!the!previous!
section.!Yet!judicial!review!is!the!only!way!of!challenging!some!decisions,!like!removal!from!the!UK,!
refusal!to!recognise!as!a!victim!of!trafficking,!certification!of!a!case!as!clearly!unfounded,!return!to!
another!European!country!under!the!Dublin!III!Regulation,!or!an!unlawful!decision!to!maintain!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
91!Home!Office!Quarterly!statistics!release!March!2019!
Recommendations)
MoJ)/)LAA:)
Implement!a!system!for!monitoring!and!mapping!potential-client!demand,!which!
focusses!on!functional!capacity!and!not!unused!matter!starts.!In!doing!so,!be!mindful!of!
the!existing!unpaid!administrative!burden!on!providers!and!avoid!increasing!this.!
Consider!removing!the!concept!of!matter!starts!from!future!contracts.!
!
!
42!
detention.!Detainees!may!be!unable!to!access!a!representative!with!judicial!review!capabilities!in!
time!(an!access!to!justice!issue)!and!public!money!may!be!wasted!paying!for!advice!which!could!
never!meet!that!detainee’s!needs!(a!value!for!money!issue).!
!
Some!of!the!new!providers!are!very!small!organisations!and,!even!if!able!to!do!judicial!review!work,!
do!not!in!reality!have!capacity!to!both!carry!out!a!week!of!detention!advice!slots!and!open!the!
number!of!cases!needed.!Some!have!reportedly!asked!the!charity!Bail!for!Immigration!Detainees!
(BID)!to!take!on!bail!cases!which!qualify!for!legal!aid!and!which!the!provider!is!therefore!
contractually!obliged!to!take!on,!because!the!provider!does!not!have!capacity!to!do!them.92!There!is!
anecdotal!evidence!that!some!providers!merits-fail!potential!clients!because!they!do!not!have!
capacity!to!do!the!work!necessary.!The!problem!is!likely!to!be!particularly!acute!when!a!charter!flight!
is!scheduled,!meaning!that!several!detainees!need!prompt!assistance!with!judicial!reviews.!
!
Other!detention-centric!problems!with!access!to!representation!include:!
Detainees!whose!cases!have!merit!being!unable!to!obtain!legal!aid!because!they!cannot!
provide!sufficient!evidence!of!means.!Often!this!is!because!a!landlord!has!disposed!of!the!
detainee’s!belongings!after!they!were!detained,!or!because!a!partner!has!a!chaotic!lifestyle!
and!is!unable!to!produce!evidence!in!time.!Detention!providers!involved!in!this!study!said!
that!they!usually!had!one!or!two!meritorious!and!eligible!cases!in!each!rota!week!(seeing!up!
to!40!clients!in!total)!which!they!could!not!take!on!because!of!lack!of!evidence!of!means.!
People!detained!in!prisons!are!often!unable!to!access!any!immigration!legal!advice!because!
there!are!no!advice!surgeries!and!communication!with!lawyers!is!difficult.!This!applies!to!
those!held!on!remand,!as!convicted!prisoners!and!as!time-served!prisoners!held!under!
immigration!powers.!BID!runs!an!immigration!advice!project!in!around!seven!prisons!but!has!
access!only!at!the!discretion!of!the!prison.!Some!prisons!have!arranged!advice!from!
organisations!which!are!OISC-accredited!only!at!level!one,!meaning!they!can!do!little!more!
complex!than!help!fill!in!forms.!
Detainees!have!no!meaningful!choice!of!provider!and!cannot!change!providers!if!they!are!
dissatisfied.!Given!the!short!timeslots!for!advice,!it!was!common!under!the!old!system!for!detainees!
to!be!unsure!whether!a!lawyer!had!taken!on!their!case!or!not.!But!with!a!maximum!of!four!possible!
providers,!support!workers!said!it!used!to!be!relatively!easy!to!find!out!which!one!a!detainee!had!
seen!and!to!try!to!resolve!any!communication!problems!which!had!arisen.!The!change!to!the!mode!
of!providing!advice!in!detention!centres!appears!to!have!been!a!response!to!the!arguments!that!the!
exclusive!contract!for!detention!work!was!unfair!and!deprived!detainees!of!choice.!However,!the!
new!system!continues!to!give!detainees!no!choice.!A!preferable!system!would!be!to!award!contracts!
for!duty!advice!rotas!only!to!those!with!expertise!in!detention!work,!but!to!remove!the!exclusivity!so!
that!clients!can!also!seek!legal!aid!advice!from!external!providers!(and!providers!could!then!build!
expertise!in!detention!work!in!order!to!enter!the!duty!advice!market).!
!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
92!Personal!communication!with!BID,!11/3/2019!
!
43!
It!is!essential!that!the!functioning!of!these!new!contracts!is!carefully!monitored!and!account!is!taken!
of!the!views!of!detention!support!groups,!providers!and!others.!
!
!
Boom)and)bust)
There!appears!to!be!a!‘boom!and!bust’!cycle!for!providers.!The!number!of!providers!spikes!at!the!
time!of!each!new!round!of!contracts,!then!declines!until!the!next!contract!tender.!The!number!of!
legal!aid!immigration!and!asylum!providers!had!fallen!by!40%!from!380!in!2004!to!234!by!the!time!
the!Carter!Review!was!published!in!2006.93!The!spike!is!less!marked!for!the!contracting!round!in!
2010,!probably!because!of!the!closures!of!all!Refugee!and!Migrant!Justice!and!Immigration!Advisory!
Service!offices!in!201011.!However,!at!the!time!when!Refugee!and!Migrant!Justice!went!into!
administration,!the!Legal!Services!Commission!stated!that!it!had!an!over-supply!of!bids!for!the!
tender,!meaning!it!gave!only!100!matter!starts!each!to!most!bidders.!!
!
As!the!graph!in!Figure!10!shows,!the!number!clearly!spiked!at!the!time!of!the!2013!contract!round,!
at!413,!falling!to!231!by!the!time!of!the!next!contract!awards!in!September!2018!–!a!loss!of!44%.94!It!
then!rose!to!326!in!the!2018!round!–!albeit!there!were!still!six!‘access!points’!which!received!one!or!
no!compliant!bids!and!other!areas!of!advice!desert.!Already,!15!providers!had!been!lost!by!mid-
February!2019,!partly!offset!by!the!award!of!four!contracts!in!the!East!and!West!Lancashire!advice!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
93!Grania!Langdon-Down!'Knockout!Punch?'!Law!Society!Gazette,!3!November!2006!
https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/analysis/knockout-punch/2910.article,!accessed!11/07/2017!!
94!Parliamentary!Written!Question!139017!response!to!Richard!Burgon!MP,!02/05/2018!
Recommendations)
!
LAA)/)MoJ:)
Implement!intensive!monitoring!of!the!effects!of!the!detention!advice!system.!
Implement!unannounced!observation-based!peer!review!for!detention!providers.!
In! futur e! procur ement! rou nds,! award! detention! advice! contracts! only! to! providers!
with!levels!one!or!two!on!peer!review.!
Abandon!the!means!and!merits!test!for!those!in!detention.!
As!an!alternative!to!abandoning!the!means!test,!relax!the!requirements!for!evidence!
of!means!for!those!in!detention.!
Ensure!that!foreign!nationals! in!prison!have!ready!access!to! immigration!and!asylum!
advice.!
Invite! expert! organisations! such! as! BID! to! provide! mandatory! training! for! all! new!
detention!advice!provider!on!bail!accommodation!and!other!key!issues.!
!
Home)Office:)
Simplify!the!provisions!for!immigration!bail!accommodation!so!that!no!detainee!ever!
spends! longer! than! necessary! in! detention! because! accommodation! (including!
probation-approved!accommodation)!is!unavailable.!
Ensure! all! relevant! probation! staff! are! aware! of! and! applying! the! policies! and!
procedures!for!allocating!accommodation!for!foreign!national!ex-offenders.!
!
!
44!
desert!following!a!further!procurement!exercise,!for!a!total!of!315.95!Even!so,!this!is!a!net!drop!of!
nearly!3.37%!in!five!months,!suggesting!the!decline!in!previous!contract!cycles!may!be!repeated.!
!
!
Figure!10:!Boom!and!bust!cycle!in!the!number!of!immigration!legal!aid!providers!20042019!
!
Each!contract!carries!transaction!costs,!including!termination!costs!if!the!contract!ends!early.!The!
awarding!of!numerous!contracts!which!do!not!last!the!full!contracting!period!escalates!transaction!
costs.!It!is!not!clear!why!this!attrition!occurs:!while!it!is!possible!to!find!data!on!the!number!which!
were!terminated!by!the!LAA,!this!lacks!detail!and!there!are!no!‘exit!interviews’!or!statistics!on!
providers’!reasons!for!surrendering!contracts.!It!appears,!however,!that!either!the!LAA!contracts!
with!too!many!providers!(which!is!not!an!adequate!explanation,!given!the!number!of!advice!deserts!
and!droughts),!that!it!contracted!with!providers!which!could!not!perform!the!contracts,!or!it!
contracted!on!terms!on!which!providers!cannot!survive.!
!
There!is!an!urgent!need!for!more!information!on!why!providers!leave!the!market:!how!many!have!
contracts!terminated!for!failing!on!peer!review?!How!many!have!them!terminated!for!other!
reasons?!Why!do!providers!choose!to!close!offices!or!withdraw!from!legal!aid!entirely?!This!
information!should!be!used!to!make!appropriate!changes!to!procurement!procedures!(including!
minimum!peer!review!level)!and!contract!terms!if!these!are!confirmed!as!causing!wasted!transaction!
costs.!
!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
95!Freedom!of!Information!response!190201020!from!Legal!Aid!Agency,!1!March!2019!
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
450
Recommendations)
!
LAA)/)MoJ:)
Conduct!‘exit!interviews’!with!market!leavers.!
Publish!clearer!data!on!the!reasons!for!contract!termination!or!surrender.!
Compare!the!data!for!contract!terminations!with!other!areas!of!law!and!other!public!
services.!
Amend!the!procurement!practices!and!contract!terms!to!reduce!the!boom!and!bust!
pattern!and!reduce!unnecessary!transaction!costs.!
!
45!
!
Lawyers)mediating)supply)
I!have!already!argued!that!financial!incentives!fail!to!explain!the!difference!in!quality!between!
lawyers.!Neither!the!‘supplier-induced!demand’!theory!nor!the!counter!theory!of!state-induced!
supply!explains!the!differences,!either!in!quality!or!in!cost.!!
!
This!study!suggests!that!in!fact!lawyers!neither!induce!nor!merely!respond!to!demand!but!rather!
mediate!it.!The!model!in!Figure!11!aims!to!help!in!understanding!how!they!do!so.!The!left-hand!
column!includes,!in!broad!terms,!the!drivers!of!potential-client!demand!for!lawyers’!services.!The!
right-hand!column!sets!out,!again!in!broad!terms,!the!services!which!the!practitioner!must,!should!or!
could!supply,!to!the!client,!the!funder!or!the!regulator,!either!on!the!individual!case!or!in!order!to!
maintain!a!legal!aid!practice.!The!middle!column!contains!the!factors!according!to!which!
interviewees!said!they!decided!what!to!do!in!any!given!case!–!i.e.!the!factors!influencing!which!
potential-client!demand!is!met,!how!in-case!demand!is!determined!and!which!aspects!of!it!are!met.!
!!
The!mediating!factors!are!divided!into!!
1) macro-level!ones,!which!amount!to!the!boundaries!of!the!system!and!apply!to!all!lawyers!
and!organisations!similarly:!these!include!the!rights!of!appeal!and!court!procedure!rules!
which!determine!whether!and!how!a!case!comes!to!court,!the!case!law!which!influences!the!
merits!of!cases,!the!fee!regime!which!determines!which!cases!are!in!scope!of!legal!aid!and!
how!much!is!payable!for!them,!and!so!on;!
2) micro-level!ones,!individual!to!the!organisation!or!practitioner,!which!determine!whether!
potential!clients!are!taken!on!and!what!in-case!demand!is!met!in!their!case,!and!therefore!
the!quality!of!service!provided.!
!
!
Figure!11:!The!Lawyer-Mediated!Supply!model!
!
Demand'factors
Global'events
Detention'policy
Dispersal'policy
Changes'in'case'law
Failure'demand
Reputation'of'
supplier
Existence'of'local'
competition
Other'local'context'
(prisons,'national'/'
ethnic'communities)
Mediating'factors
Macro-level'-
Home'Office'policy;
Home'Office'decision-making;
Asylum'model/'process;
Legal'aid'fee'regime'and'operational'practice;
Contract'specification;
Regulatory'requirements;
Appeal'rights;
Tri bun al' / 'co urt 'pr oce dur e'r ule s ;
Judicial'practice;
Case'law.
Micro-level'may'include:
Matter'starts'available;
Capacity;'
Prioritisation'/'exclusion'decisions;
Time;
Supplier’s'skills,'experience,'tactics,'knowledge;
Individual'client'needs'and'circumstances;
Merits-test'policy;
Organisational'costs'and'financing'/'subsidy;'
Organisational'culture;
Personal'commitment.
Supply
(ie.'all'the'things'which'are'supplied)
To'client
Advice,'identification'of'issues'/'indicators,'
evidence'gathering'(personal'and'expert),'
advocacy,'client'care'and'communication,
on'applications,'appeals,'judicial'review,'
detention'and'bail.
To'funde r: eg.'evidence'of'client’s'means,'
justification'of'work'done,'files'for'audit'and'
assessment,'compliance'with'contract'terms'
and'pre-requisites:'supervision,'
accreditation,'Quality'Mark.
To're g u l a t o r : maintaining'practice'
certificates,'insurance,'registration,'
continuing'professional'development.
!
46!
Although!the!model!was!developed!with!high-quality!practitioners,!mediation!of!demand!can!also!
lead!to!poor-quality!services!–!particularly!where!the!financial!incentives!in!the!contract!are!treated!
as!the!most!significant!mediating!factor!(leading!to!work-capping).!Limited!skills!and!experience!are!
a!significant!mediating!factor!in!organisations!which!rely!heavily!on!poorly!supervised!least-cost!
labour,!and!may!inform!a!policy!which!tends!towards!merits-failing!complex!cases.!
!
This!model,!taken!together!with!the!demand!and!costs!matrix,!offers!a!‘menu’!of!points!for!
intervention!in!the!system!to!affect!demand!and!quality!without!further!damage!to!the!financial!
viability!(and!therefore!supply)!of!providers.!In!the!demand!column,!for!example,!global!events!are!
outside!the!control!of!any!UK!agency,!but!detention!policy!and!failure!demand!offer!opportunities!
for!both!the!Home!Office!and!other!UK!departments!to!reduce!the!need!for!legal!services.!In!the!
supply!column!there!are,!primarily,!options!for!reducing!the!extent!or!cost!of!services!to!the!funder.!!
!
Perhaps!most!importantly,!in!the!macro-level!mediating!factors!column,!there!are!a!number!of!
aspects!which!could!be!amended!to!improve!the!system:!the!asylum!process,!Home!Office!policy!
and!decision-making,!the!legal!aid!fee!regime!and!contract!specification,!judicial!practices,!and!so!
on.!For!clarity,!I!do!not!advocate!any!further!reduction!in!appeal!rights,!since!these!are!an!important!
check!on!the!quality!of!decision-making,!and!the!alternative!is!diversion!of!cases!into!the!more!
expensive!judicial!review!system.!
!
!
Conclusion)
The!‘market’!as!a!mechanism!is!failing!to!control!for!quality!or!to!ensure!adequate!availability!of!
asylum!legal!aid!services.!This!market!failure!is!caused!by!the!way!in!which!the!market!is!structured!
and!managed.!
!
Legal!aid!will!not!move!away!from!the!current!market!structure!of!a!monopsony!purchaser!and!a!
range!of!providers.!UK!public!services!have!comprehensively!shifted!away!from!nationalised,!state-
run!services!like!the!original!UK!Immigration!Advisory!Service!or!the!US!Public!Defender!Service.!This!
means!a!situation!of!imperfect!competition!is!inevitable:!there!is!no!policy!innovation!which!could!
create!perfect!competition!(even!if!such!a!situation!were!desirable).96!Since!the!monopsony!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
96!The!previous!proposals!for!Best!Value!Tendering!would!also!not!amount!to!a!situation!of!perfect!
competition.!The!findings!of!this!and!earlier!research!suggest!that!BVT!would!exacerbate!the!quality!and!
advice!drought!issues!examined!in!this!report.!
Recommendations)
!
MoJ)and)Home)Office:)
Undertake!or!commission!an!evidence-based!whole-system!analysis,!in!partnership!with!
others,!of!the!asylum!process!from!arrival!to!the!grant!of!settlement!or!removal!from!the!
UK.!
!
47!
purchaser!holds!much!of!the!power,!it!also!bears!responsibility!for!managing!the!market!so!as!to!
avoid!market!failure.!
!
However,!other!actors!in!the!asylum!and!court!systems!also!have!a!role!to!play!in!ensuring!that!their!
policy!is!aligned!with!legal!aid!policy!at!least!insofar!as!it!affects!the!viability!of!provision!of!legal!
advice!and!representation.!Genuine!improvements!will!not!be!made!through!fragmentary!changes!
which!target!isolated!parts!of!the!system:!these!are!more!likely!to!shift!costs!around!without!
creating!genuine!improvement!from!any!perspective.!
!
There!is!an!urgent!need!for!policy!which!takes!a!whole-system!view!and!differentiates!by!quality,!
supporting!the!high-quality!providers,!and!sanctioning!or!excluding!poor-quality!ones,!while!also!
reducing!the!volume!of!failure!demand!pulled!into!the!system!through!the!actions!of!other!agencies.!
There!are!significant!areas!of!advice!desert!and!advice!‘drought’,!where!there!is!a!false!appearance!
of!adequate!supply.!Demand!and!supply!have!been!misunderstood!at!policy!level.!There!is!an!
important!difference!between!notional!supply!(unused!matter!starts)!and!functional!supply!
(providers’!capacity!to!meet!potential-client!or!in-case!demand).!Currently!there!are!no!effective!
feedback!loops!in!place!to!obtain!critical!information!about!demand!or!functional!supply.!
!
Peer!review!data!show!that,!compared!with!other!areas!of!law,!there!is!a!disproportionately!high!
prevalence!of!excellent!providers!in!immigration!and!asylum,!yet!also!a!high!prevalence!of!providers!
who!are!below!competence.!Good-quality!practitioners!and!organisations!are!either!forced!out!of!
the!‘market’!altogether!or!are!compelled!to!reduce!their!legal!aid!market!share!so!as!to!cap!their!
losses!at!the!amount!they!can!raise!in!subsidy.!Poor-quality!providers’!market!position!is!protected!
by!the!standard!fee!and!the!auditing!regime,!alongside!rules!and!systems!which!actively!prevent!
clients!from!escaping!poor-quality!providers.!!
!
It!appears!impossible!to!reconcile!quality,!financial!viability!and!access!in!the!current!‘market’,!
except!in!very!limited!circumstances.!In!most!cases,!the!high-quality!provider!organisations!reduced!
access,!meaning!individuals!with!standard!fee!asylum!cases!were!least!likely!to!be!able!to!access!
high-quality!providers.!In!turn,!this!raises!the!risk!of!generating!failure!demand,!as!people!who!were!
poorly!represented!are!left!in!the!asylum!system!needing!advice!on!(more!labour-intensive)!fresh!
asylum!claims!or!legal!services!relating!to!detention!and!removal!–!not!to!mention!the!risk!of!a!
person!who!needs!international!protection!being!returned!to!their!home!country.!!
!
This!study!sets!out!a!matrix!of!four!types!of!demand,!which!allows!for!analysis!of!the!drivers!of!
demand!either!at!macro!(asylum!system)!level!or!at!micro!(individual!case)!level.!This!enables!a!
nuanced!analysis!of!the!causes!or!drivers!of!demand,!and!of!the!consequences!on!costs,!which!may!
be!generated,!escalated!or!shifted!onto!another!part!of!the!system.!
!!
A!significant!volume!of!overall!demand!is!failure!demand,!particularly!caused!by!Home!Office!
decision-making!and!LAA!control!practices!and!decision-making,!resulting!in!escalated!and!
generated!costs,!as!well!as!cost-shifting!which!particularly!burdens!legal!aid!providers,!including!
barristers,!and!has!led!to!some!organisations!and!practitioners!withdrawing!from!the!asylum!legal!
aid!market!altogether.!Failure!demand!is!also!generated!by!poor-quality!lawyers,!with!whom!the!
LAA!continues!contracting,!and!exploitation!or!poor-quality!work!by!some!privately!paid!lawyers.!
!
48!
!!
There!is!an!exponential!relationship!between!legal!complexity!and!cost,!which!drives!in-case!
demand!and!explains!why!overall!costs!increase!out!of!proportion!to!the!number!of!cases.!Factors!in!
that!relationship!include!the!number!of!relevant!previous!case!authorities,!frequent!changes!in!law!
and!policy!in!immigration!and!asylum,!the!constant!struggle!over!interpretation,!and!escalating!
evidential!demands.!
!!
The!research!also!offers!a!model!for!considering!how!lawyers!mediate!demand!for!their!services.!
There!is!a!conflict!for!all!lawyers!and!organisations!wishing!to!do!high-quality!immigration!legal!aid!
work:!in!an!era!of!standard!fees,!where!auditing!focuses!almost!exclusively!on!procedural!rather!
than!substantive!quality,!there!are!strong!economic!incentives!to!carry!out!work!to!a!minimum!
quality!standard.!Yet,!in!spite!of!operating!within!the!same!system!of!incentives,!regulation,!legal!
rules,!and!so!on,!the!organisations!and!practitioners!which!participated!in!my!research!were!peer-
identified!as!providing!high-quality!work,!while!some!other!organisations!appeared!to!respond!to!
the!contractual!and!financial!incentives!with!poor-quality!work!justified!by!the!fee!structure.!
!!
Some!of!the!recommendations!in!this!report!involve!making!sure!lawyers!are!paid!within!a!
reasonable!period!of!time.!These!issues!may!not!generate!significant!public!sympathy,!but!it!is!
increasingly!clear!that!the!supply!of!legal!aid!services,!especially!from!barristers!and!high-quality!
providers,!is!precarious.!The!Bar!Standards!Board!identified!the!dearth!of!specialist!immigration!
barristers!outside!London,!Manchester!and!Birmingham!and!this!research!identifies!the!extent!to!
which!the!publicly!funded!immigration!bar!depends!on!the!goodwill!of!a!small!number!of!high!
earners!subsidising!their!colleagues.!This!report!demonstrates!the!boom!and!bust!cycle!of!legal!aid!
contracts,!suggesting!many!providers!cannot!survive!on!the!existing!contract!terms.!The!market!has!
haemorrhaged!not-for-profits!between!20052018,!suggesting!that!the!current!regime!is!
incompatible!with!the!not-for-profit!business!model!and!is!not!sustainable!for!providers!overall.!!
!
If!there!is!not!to!be!a!catastrophic!market!failure,!policy-makers!will!need!to!make!changes!which!
support!those!lawyers!and!organisations!that!wish!to!continue!(or!resume)!providing!good-quality!
legal!aid!services.!
! !
!
49!
Summary)of)recommendations)
Quality)and)auditing)
LAA:)
1. Increase!the!minimum!peer!review!score!for!contract!holders!to!two,!underpinned!by!either!
payment!of!hourly!rates!or!reducing!the!escape!fee!threshold!to!double!the!standard!fee.!
2. Alternatively,!where!there!are!multiple!bidders,!contract!only!with!providers!receiving!levels!
one!or!two!on!peer!review,!to!avoid!spending!public!money!on!work!which!adds!little!value!
to!the!case.!
3. Allow!clients!to!change!provider!if!dissatisfied,!and!take!steps!to!make!file!transfer!easier.!
4. Take!a!more!pragmatic!approach!to!auditing!which!differentiates!between!providers!on!
grounds!of!quality!and!which!avoids!punitive!sanctions!and!minimises!transaction!costs!in!
cases!of!human!error!or!minimal!risk!to!the!legal!aid!fund.!This!should!be!developed!in!
partnership!with!the!National!Audit!Office!and!providers!to!ensure!a!collaborative!approach.!
Scope)and)client)access)
MoJ)/)Government:)
5. Return!immigration!cases!to!the!scope!of!legal!aid,!subject!to!the!means!test.!
6. As!an!alternative!to!wholesale!re-inclusion!of!non-asylum!immigration!work,!this!should!
include!all!cases!prima'facie'relating!to!trafficking,!refugee!family!reunion!(including!those!
outside!the!Immigration!Rules),!domestic!violence,!and!deportation!or!removal!cases!where!
there!are!British!national!family!members.!!
Fees)and)payment)systems)
LAA)/)MoJ:)
7. Abandon!standard!fees!and!pay!for!all!cases!at!hourly!rates,!auditing!a!sample!of!files!and!
bills!for!each!organisation!or!barrister.!If!the!standard!fee!is!adequate!in!most!cases,!this!
should!not!lead!to!a!significant!increase!in!costs;!if!it!does!lead!to!an!increase!in!costs,!it!
suggests!the!standard!fee!was!not!adequate.!
8. As!an!alternative!to!abandoning!the!standard!fee,!reduce!the!escape!threshold!to!double!the!
standard!fee.!!
9. Restore!judicial!review!funding!to!the!pre-2013!position,!as!the!justification!for!placing!all!
risk!on!lawyers!in!judicial!review!applications!is!flimsy.!!
10. As!an!alternative,!if!there!are!evidence-based!concerns!that!some!lawyers!are!carrying!out!
unmerited!judicial!review!work!on!legal!aid!(rather!than!privately!funded)!then!award!
separate!schedules!on!contracts!allowing!only!the!higher!quality!providers!(levels!one!and!
two!on!peer!review)!to!do!judicial!review!work.!
11. Alternatively,!if!funding!is!to!remain!at!risk,!solicitors!should!be!given!a!delegated!function!to!
grant!conditional!funding,!and!the!costs!limits!on!certificates!should!be!removed,!to!save!
wasted!administration!time!where!there!is!no!risk!to!the!fund.!
12. Pay!barristers!directly!for!appeals!work,!rather!than!via!the!provider!claiming!them!as!
disbursements.!This!works!in!other!areas!of!law,!would!remove!a!source!of!cash!flow!
difficulty!for!barristers!(if!they!bill!promptly)!and!would!also!relieve!solicitors!of!an!
administrative!burden.)
)
!
50!
HMCTS:)
13. The!courts!should!grant!permission!in!judicial!review!or!appeal!cases!before!staying!them!
behind!test!litigation.!
14. The!disincentives!to!lawyers!requesting!court!assessment!of!costs!should!be!reconsidered,!
to!allow!for!fair!assessment!of!the!work!done.!!
HMRC:)
15. Legal!aid!lawyers!should!be!taxed!on!the!income!basis,!not!on!work!in!progress,!in!respect!of!
cases!where!money!is!owed!by!the!state.!This!could!be!achieved!by!making!the!income!basis!
available!to!any!lawyer!whose!billing!is!more!than,!for!example,!30%!legal!aid.!
!
Provision)in)detention)
LAA:)
16. Implement!intensive!monitoring!of!the!effects!of!the!new!detention!advice!system.!
17. Implement!unannounced!observation-based!peer!review!for!detention!providers.!
18. In!future!procurement!rounds,!award!detention!advice!contracts!only!to!providers!with!
levels!one!or!two!on!peer!review.!
19. Abandon!the!means!and!merits!test!for!those!in!detention.!
20. As!an!alternative!to!abandoning!the!means!test,!relax!the!requirements!for!evidence!of!
means!for!those!in!detention.!!
21. Invite!expert!organisations!such!as!BID!to!provide!mandatory!training!for!all!new!detention!
advice!providers!on!bail!accommodation!and!other!key!issues.!
MoJ:)
22. Ensure!that!foreign!nationals!in!prison!have!ready!access!to!immigration!and!asylum!advice.)
Home)Office)/)Probation)services:)
23. Simplify!the!provisions!for!immigration!bail!accommodation!so!that!no!detainee!ever!spends!
longer!than!necessary!in!detention!because!accommodation!(including!probation-approved!
accommodation)!is!unavailable.!
24. Ensure!all!relevant!probation!staff!are!aware!of!and!applying!the!policies!and!procedures!for!
allocating!accommodation!for!foreign!national!ex-offenders.!
Advice)droughts)
LAA:)
25. Implement!a!system!for!monitoring!and!mapping!potential-client!demand,!which!focusses!
on!functional!capacity!and!not!unused!matter!starts.!In!doing!so,!be!mindful!of!the!existing!
unpaid!administrative!burden!on!providers!and!avoid!increasing!this.!
26. Consider!removing!the!concept!of!matter!starts!from!future!contracts,!to!avoid!misleading!
indicators!of!supply.!
!
Understanding)and)reducing)demand)
Home)Office)and)Independent)Chief)Inspector)of)Borders)and)Immigration:)
27. Improve!the!quality!of!decision!making!in!the!Home!Office.!Existing!efforts!to!do!this,!as!
recommended!by!the!Independent!Chief!Inspector!of!Borders!and!Immigration!and!the!
Justice!Working!Party,!are!welcomed.!!!
!
51!
28. Continue!reducing!the!number!of!people!detained!and!the!length!of!detention!(without!
increasing!short-notice!removals,!which!would!increase!demand!for!urgent!work).!I!endorse!
the!recommendation!made!by!the!Joint!Committee!on!Human!Rights!for!independent!
decision!making!and!oversight!on!immigration!detention.!
29. Carefully!monitor!the!quality!of!decisions!and!demand!for!judicial!review!work!emanating!
from!the!reformed!National!Referral!Mechanism.!
Home)Office)and)LAA:)
30. Reduce!the!hostility!of!the!system!in!order!to!reduce!both!in-case!and!potential!client!
demand!while!maintaining!fairness.!
)
All)parties:)
31. Any!changes!to!the!process!should!be!systemic.!For!example,!if!the!Home!Office!proposes!to!
implement!a!policy!of!re-examining!cases!before!hearing,!Tribunal!listing!times!must!be!
sufficiently!predictable!for!representatives!to!obtain!further!evidence!in!time!for!the!review!
and!the!LAA!must!be!willing!to!fund!timely!evidence!gathering.!!
32. This!report!endorses!the!recommendations!of!the!Justice!Working!Party!on!reducing!
demand!in!the!immigration!appeals!system!without!reducing!appeal!rights.!
Systemic)understanding)and)evidence)gathering)
MoJ)and)Home)Office:))
33. Undertake!or!commission!an!evidence-based!whole-system!analysis,!in!partnership!with!
others,!of!the!asylum!process!from!arrival!to!the!grant!of!settlement!or!removal!from!the!
UK.!
34. Conduct!‘exit!interviews’!with!market!leavers!and!publish!clearer!data!on!the!reasons!for!
contract!termination!or!surrender.!
35. Compare!the!data!for!contract!terminations!and!surrender!with!other!areas!of!law!and!other!
public!services.!
36. Amend!the!procurement!practices!and!contract!terms!to!reduce!the!boom!and!bust!pattern!
and!reduce!unnecessary!transaction!costs.!
!
!
Appendix)1:)Method)
The!bulk!of!the!fieldwork!for!this!research!was!carried!out!over!18!months!from!June!2016
December!2017.!It!consisted!of!case!studies!of!practitioners!and!organisations!which!were!ranked!in!
Chambers!and!Partners!(for!solicitors’!firms!and!barristers’!chambers)!or!peer!identified!as!providing!
high-quality!services!(not-for-profits).!These!case!studies!included!three!not-for-profits,!two!private!
firms,!twenty!barristers!and!four!staff!in!six!chambers,!as!well!as!the!now-closed!Refugee!and!
Migrant!Justice!(formerly!the!Refugee!Legal!Centre)!which!constitutes!a!unique!case,!as!the!earliest!
and!largest!provider!of!asylum!legal!aid!services.!The!research!consisted!of!74!semi-structured!
interviews!in!all,!lasting!30100!minutes,!including!Legal!Aid!Agency!officials!and!a!representative!of!
the!Immigration!Law!Practitioners!Association.!!
!
This!report!also!draws!on!interviews!which!were!carried!out!for!research!commissioned!by!the!
Solicitors!Regulation!Authority!and!Legal!Ombudsman!on!the!quality!of!asylum!legal!services!
provided!by!solicitors!(both!legal!aid!and!private).!These!consisted!of!42!semi-structured!interviews!
with!officials,!lawyers,!NGO!workers!and!statutory!or!regulatory!bodies’!staff!which!were!carried!out!
by!members!of!the!research!team,!and!contained!material!that!was!highly!relevant!to!the!issues!
around!legal!aid!but!had!not!been!used!for!the!report,!which!had!a!different!set!of!research!
questions.!These!interviews!were!thematically!analysed!but!have!not!been!directly!quoted!in!this!
report,!since!not!all!interviewees!could!be!contacted!for!further!consent!for!the!use!of!their!
comments.!
!
I!also!relied!on!documentary!evidence,!the!websites!of!the!organisations!studied,!Freedom!of!
Information!requests!and!publicly!available!information!such!as!Tribunal!hearing!lists!and!the!Legal!
Aid!Agency’s!spreadsheets!of!providers!in!each!area!of!law.!This!information!was!thematically!
analysed,!initially!for!the!purpose!of!writing!an!academic!thesis.!Since!the!thesis!ran!to!over!100,000!
words,!I!obtained!funding!to!draft!a!shorter!report!with!a!policy!focus!and!to!collaborate!with!other!
interested!organisations!(both!legal!and!non-legal)!in!formulating!policy!recommendations.!
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Dr!Jo!Wilding,!Brighton,!April!2019!
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Droughts and Deserts
A report on the immigration legal aid market
Dr Jo Wilding
... There is also some evidence to suggest that provision does not match need in certain parts of the country (NACCOM & Refugee Action 2018). Gaps are evident in several areas of the country -effectively meaning that there are parts of the country that are "advice deserts" (Wilding 2019). This led one of Britain's most senior judges to argue that "our justice system has become unaffordable to most" (Lord Chief Justice Thomas of Cwmgiedd, result quoted in The Bach Commission on Access to Justice 2016), whilst a recent review by the Law Society stated that "[in] reality, the Government's reforms have resulted in vulnerable groups finding themselves excluded from free legal advice" (Law Society 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Britain’s asylum system fails the most vulnerable; it cannot ensure that people who are least able to protect themselves are provided with the legal assistance that they require to cope with the challenges with which they are inevitably faced. Against this background, the charity Refugee Action developed the Frontline Immigration Advice Programme (FIAP), a technology-supported capacity strengthening programme that aims to increase access to justice for those going through the asylum system in the UK. This paper is concerned with the design and implementation of the FIAP as a free digitally enabled programme that provides learning opportunities for organisations and frontline workers in the refugee sector and supports them in developing new forms of legal practice. It provides empirical data from interviews with members of staff from six participating organisations in the FIAP, and from Refugee Action and the Office of the UK’s Immigration Services Commissioner1 (n = 21). The paper adopts a view on social justice, which according to Fraser (2005) is understood as ‘parity of participation’. We draw on Fraser’s work, as well as work of other scholars such as Lambert (2018) and Hodgkinson-Williams and Trotter (2018) to explore the relationship between social justice and open education by taking into consideration the context within which organisations and professionals operate. The analysis highlights six dimensions for social justice approaches for professional learning as demonstrated through the case of the FIAP: i. deliberate iterative design; ii. access to provision; iii. flexibility of provision; iv. development of resources; v. support and vi. advancing knowledge and skills whilst adapting the workplace. All these dimensions are discussed in the paper in relation to the concept of openness and are critical in developing open socially just programmes that aim to change work practice and address the needs of the most vulnerable.
... Other times, being unrepresented may be the result of more than lacking funds. UK government legal aid for asylum is free, but only available to cases deemed to have over a 50% chance of success (for discussion of the UK's immigration legal aid market and the impact of austerity, see Wilding, 2019). Solicitors must decide whether they can win cases, and if they lose too many they may be barred from providing future government-funded legal aid. ...
Article
There is an absence of absence in legal geography and materialist studies of the law. Drawing on a multi‐sited ethnography of European asylum appeal hearings, this paper illustrates the importance of absences for a fully‐fledged materiality of legal events. We show how absent materials impact hearings, that non‐attending participants profoundly influence them, and that even when participants are physically present, they are often simultaneously absent in other, psychological registers. In so doing we demonstrate the importance and productivity of thinking not only about law's omnipresence but also the absences that shape the way law is experienced and practiced. We show that attending to the distribution of absence and presence at legal hearings is a way to critically engage with legal performance.
Article
This article examines how three spheres of hostility intersect to prevent effective access to justice for those living with insecure immigration status. The neoliberal governance model, the barren justice landscape and the hostile environment are supported by the cynical construction of the ‘fat cat’ lawyer and the toxic ‘folk devil’ narrative of the ‘bogus’ asylum seeker. To the extent that the judiciary have frustrated the more obvious, ideologically driven, attempts to restrict access to justice for migrants, the austerity predicated measures pursuant to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) have completely altered the legal landscape. The analysis is informed by the findings of the ‘Legal advice and support for persons with insecure status’ project (hereafter LAPIS) in Nottingham which explores the challenges faced by service providers and the lived experiences of those with insecurity of status. It is clear that access to justice is a passport to the realisation of other rights, yet participants struggled to access a remedy because legal advice is too often out of reach.
Article
Full-text available
In this article, we examine how the concept of a `refugee' is discursively constituted within the UK refugee system. We examine the actions and interactions of four organizations in particular: the British government, the Refugee Legal Centre, the British Refugee Council and the Refugee Forum, as they struggle to establish an understanding of `refugee' conducive to their goals and interests. Within this institutional field, the social construction of refugees takes place at two different levels: at the broadest level, the idea of a refugee is defined through an ongoing discursive process involving a wide range of actors; while at a more micro level, individual cases are processed by a limited subset of organizations based on this broad definition. We show that while the government controls the processing of individual cases through its formal authority and control of resources, all four organizations participate in the definition of a refugee and they all, therefore, play a role in refugee determination. Understanding the dynamics of an institutional field requires a consideration of discursive as well as traditional sources of power. While formal authority and resource dependency may provide some organizations with a measure of control within an existing institutional frame, discursive processes enable other organizations to modify or maintain the institutional frame within which traditional power is exercised.
More relief for legal aid lawyers: government gives ground on judicial review work, Free Movement
  • James Packer
James Packer, More relief for legal aid lawyers: government gives ground on judicial review work, Free Movement 14 March 2019 https://www.freemovement.org.uk/legal-aid-judicial-review-duncan-lewis/
Admin) HMCTS: 13. The courts should grant permission in judicial review or appeal cases before staying them behind test litigation
R (on the application of EO, RA, CE, OE and RAN) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] EWHC 1236 (Admin) HMCTS: 13. The courts should grant permission in judicial review or appeal cases before staying them behind test litigation.