YES- IT DOES MAKE IT WORK!
THIS IS THE ONLY SINGLE-VOLUME COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THE LEGAL AID SCHEME CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TO HELP THE NEW AND THE EXPERIENCED PRACTITIONER
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
There is much to be commended with this excellent new publication from the Legal Action Group (LAG) filling the gap left as a successor to the annual Legal Aid Handbook no longer in print.
Of course, LAG specializes in those controversial areas of law of deepest concern to the general public with their problems as well as practitioners who deal with them. LAG is at the forefront this year with one of the most important contemporary issues of the moment- legal aid desperately in need of modern reform during an economic downturn.
Vicky Ling and Simon Pugh assert, quite rightly, that legal aid is fundamental to the operation of a democratic society. And the authors quote Lord Bingham who said equality before the law is a pretence if some citizens can assert and protect their rights and others cannot; that the rule of law to be meaningful, must ensure that justice is available to all, irrespective of means. This 300 page paperback gives us all a hand in making this scheme work in 21st century.
Ling & Pugh pointed out at their book launch that, significantly, 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the Legal Aid and Assistance Act 1949 which created legal aid. It also, inevitably, created the complex and unwieldy bureaucratic apparatus that administers and supports it: the Legal Services Commissions Manual at 1,000 pages long and great for somnambulists.
What we have tried to do in this book, say the authors, is provide a practical guide to all the various elements that make up legal aid in one volume. They do just that with Part A covering Doing Legal Aid Work which aims to take lawyers and caseworkers through the rules and regulations that govern the criminal, civil and family schemes, illustrated by case studies, with references to primary sources.
Part B covers Managing Legal Aid Work and provides directors, managers and administrators with advice and guidance on keeping contracts and likely future developments.
The book covers both the civil and criminal legal aid schemes. The word comprehensive is much used these days, but it is a fair statement of the detail and usefulness of this book with its excellent case studies which have the practical content we so desperately need as practitioners in the system.
So, we sum it up by saying, yes, they do make it work for us and, as a footnote, we used it the other day on an intricate legal aid point, using the index, then the appendices and the body copy to track down some advice found very quickly. As Ling & Pugh said to us, lets hope it fills the vacant gap left by the demise of the old handbookand we know it will as it is highly user-friendly.