Page 3: Setting up the Public Defender Service
Before introducing change it is helpful to carry out some form of SWOT analysis. A SWOT involves identifying the internal strengths and weaknesses of the existing system and the opportunities and threats in both the internal and external environment.
Strengths and weaknesses
Before the PDS was set up, defendants in criminal cases had to rely on the services of private practice solicitors who applied for and received funding from the Legal Services Commission. The strengths of these services were that they were already set up and went some way towards helping poorer and disadvantaged groups.
Unfortunately, some areas of the country had a very limited number of suppliers. In addition, the absence of agreed service levels and quality standards often resulted in a relatively ineffective and uncontrolled use of public money. And with an increasingly ageing legal profession - and fewer new lawyers moving into criminal law - there was a clear need to ensure adequate criminal defence resources for the future.
Opportunities and threats
Creating the PDS was a logical way of promoting wider access to high quality legal services within a broad government policy of promoting social inclusion. It meant setting up a completely new structure under which the PDS employs lawyers directly, rather than contracting outside lawyers to work on specific cases. It also meant looking for new ways to improve systems, processes and procedures.
To be successful, the PDS had to be able to recruit talented people. So it took the opportunity to design a quality system in which people working for the PDS could develop their careers and qualifications within the organisation. In addition to the satisfaction of knowing that their work has a positive impact on other people's lives, employees benefit directly from enlightened policies that allow them to fulfil their own potential and achieve a better work-life balance.
The PDS is well placed to meet its long-term aim of meeting the needs both of its employees and also its clients - often people in danger of being 'socially excluded'.