After 24 years, Mackintosh Law, the specialist mental capacity and community care firm, has announced that it intends to wind down its operations over the next few months.
Nicola Mackintosh KC (Hon), founder, said:
‘I have been incredibly proud to run a successful legal aid practice with an amazing team of solicitors and support staff for almost a quarter of a century, specialising in representing vulnerable and disabled clients. This is vital legal work making sure disabled people can enforce their rights, protecting them from harm, abuse and exploitation. Over the years I have trained many of the next generation solicitors to the excellent standard required to meet the needs of this particularly vulnerable client group.
Civil legal aid rates have not increased for almost 30 years, and were even cut by 10% in 2011. Over the same period overheads have vastly increased. Being a small specialist legal aid practice means that cross subsidising is not an option and unlike businesses in other sectors we cannot increase what we charge to cover our increased overheads.
Legal aid work involves disproportionately high levels of unnecessary administration for work at unacceptably low rates. This additional bureaucracy wastes huge amounts of valuable time and resources which could be far better spent on advising clients.
Sadly, as a result of all these factors, it has become impossible to attract and retain staff who can provide the professional assistance our clients deserve, because we are unable to offer the kind of flexible and financial packages they seek. There is no immediate or short term prospect of positive civil legal aid reform which is so urgently needed.
It is incredibly tough for any small business to survive. But the continuing lack of any real political commitment to urgent action to secure proper delivery of accessible justice for all in society is devastating. Legal aid lawyers are dedicated, committed and highly skilled professionals. They should be properly rewarded for the incredible work they do for the most vulnerable in our society, upholding the rule of law.
The Government’s current review of the sustainability of the civil legal aid sector will, I expect, only show what we already know after LASPO* was implemented 10 years ago – that concerted action is needed. But that action is needed urgently now, not later.
This has been an extremely hard decision and I would like to pay tribute to all the staff of Mackintosh Law at this difficult time. The firm has undertaken a careful redundancy consultation and whilst work on existing cases continues there will be a gradual and orderly wind down over the next few months.
Although the firm is winding down my personal intention thereafter is to continue in legal practice, both in relation to casework and policy. There is still an urgent and pressing need to challenge some of the worst injustices disabled people face, and to ensure that access to justice becomes a high priority on the political agenda.’
Note to editors
Nicola co founded Mackintosh Duncan, a two partner practice in 1999. In 2011 she became sole trader of Mackintosh Law, specialising in representing disabled people, enforcing their rights to health and social care services, and promoting access to justice. The firm incorporated in 2018 as Mackintosh Law Limited, focusing on Court of Protection casework in some of the most complex and novel cases concerning mental capacity of vulnerable adults and access to justice issues.
Mackintosh Law Limited has a national reputation and is highly ranked in Chambers and Legal 500. Nicola is a star individual described as ‘outstanding’, ‘absolutely fantastic’, ‘totally client-focused’ with ‘passion and drive’, ‘hugely respected by the judiciary’.
Nicola is Co Chair of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group and has co-authored the Manifesto for Legal Aid. She is a member of the Law Society’s Mental Health and Disability Committee and for several years was a member of the Law Society’s Council. She is a previous member of the Civil Justice Council, she was a member of the Bach Commission contributing to its 2017 report ‘The Right to Justice’, and is a co-author of the latest edition of the Court of Protection Handbook published by the Legal Action Group.
She was appointed KC (Hon) in 2014 for her exceptional contribution to the law of community care and access to justice. She is an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple Inn.
*Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012