The Law Society of England and Wales is planning a legal challenge against the British Government over legal-aid rates paid to criminal defence solicitors.
In a statement, the solicitors' organisation said that the government had rejected its offer of mediation to resolve a dispute over the issue.
"The government has failed to satisfactorily address the serious concerns we raised about the collapse of the criminal legal-aid sector following years of chronic underfunding," the Law Society President Lubna Shuja said.
"We have therefore applied to the High Court for permission to challenge the government's implementation of the recommendations made in the independent review of the sector," she stated.
The society has criticised a decision not to increase criminal-defence solicitors' legal-aid rates by 15% as "both unlawful and irrational".
Its president said that this decision had, and would continue to have, "dire consequences" for access to justice.
"The government has repeatedly failed to take the crisis seriously and has rejected our proposal of independent mediation as a way forward. This leaves us with no choice but to seek permission to bring our claim," said Shuja.
"We are fighting for the future of the justice system through every avenue and every tool available, including taking the fight to the courts."
"Talk of further funding in the future is too little, too late," she added.
Exodus of solicitors
Shuja stated that solicitors and law firms were continuing to leave the criminal defence profession "in their droves", because the work was not financially viable.
"Our analysis suggests that there will be 19% fewer duty solicitors by 2025, and the number of firms doing criminal legal-aid work will fall by 16% (150 fewer firms), leaving many people without access to a lawyer when they desperately need expert advice," the society's president continued.
"The government found the money for defence and prosecution barristers, but is short-changing solicitors, who are the backbone of the criminal-justice system," she said.