Page 4: Change
Setting up the PDS involved changing the system. Not everyone welcomes change, and before many members of the legal profession would welcome change they wanted to know the nature of the changes, the reasons for them, and their likely impact. One challenge for the PDS, therefore, has been to raise awareness of the benefits of the new system within the legal profession.
Change has to be overseen and managed. Good communication is a vital part of the process. The message to any doubters was that the PDS represents an improved service for customers and also better value for money.
Anyone who has ever overseen a programme of change knows to expect at least some resistance. In this instance the main opposition came from those lawyers who had previously been involved in publicly-funded criminal defence work.
Their resistance stemmed from their concern that legal cases which had come to them through schemes such as the Duty Solicitor Scheme (whereby solicitors work on a rota system to represent individuals at local police stations) would now be undertaken by the PDS 'in-house', with a consequent reduction in their own fee earnings. They also thought they would face unfair competition, on the grounds that the PDS was unlikely to be completely independent from other government agencies such as the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
In countering this resistance, the Legal Services Commission made clear that the PDS exists primarily to meet client needs and to further the government's aims of social inclusion. It pointed out that clients do not have to approach the PDS. They still have a choice, and can go to their own legal representatives if they prefer. The Public Defender Service does not have an unfair competitive advantage; its source of funding does not affect its competitive position.