Ethnic minority law firms will be among those hardest hit by a review of the legal aid system, according to the Birmingham Law Society.
The proposals, whereby firms will bid for criminal legal aid contracts, are likely to favour large firms who can tender the most competitive prices.
And ethnic minority firms, which tend to be among the smaller 'niche' firms will become "progressively more disadvantaged" according to Richard Follis, president of Birmingham Law Society.
The proposals in the review are aimed at trimming the criminal legal aid budget and speeding up the progress of cases through the criminal justice system.
The reasoning is that if a firm has a fixed budget to spend on defending a client in magistrates court, they will be less inclined to accept delays and adjournments.
Mr Follis said he feared one of the principal side effects of this aspect of the review would be less choice for the consumer via the inevitable loss of small law firms.
"The practical effect of getting firms to bid for work is that very small firms will no longer be able to carry out legal defence work," he said.
"Having small firms doing that has been good for the public because of choice. There is more chance of finding a small local firm and not having to travel.
"There is not a huge over supply of criminal lawyers in the West Midlands," he added. "It is not that easy to get yourself an experienced criminal layer in certain parts of the West Midlands. If we lose the network of small firms then it will get progressively harder."
In addition, he said, it would mean clients would not benefit from the local knowledge solicitors in an area had of magistrates and law enforcement issues which affected sentencing.
Research by the Legal Services Commission has indicated that a bidding system would be detrimental to agencies which have a higher than average proportion of lawyers with ethnic minority backgrounds, he said.
"This is because they tend to be the smaller, niche firms rather than the size of firms who will be able to offer competitive tenders. These are the firms which tend to be in the i nner city, in areas of deprivation."
Ethnic minority clients would also lose out, he said.
"It would tend to discriminate against the people of those backgrounds who use those firms as well, who want to be represented by people who are of their own background, who are local and who perhaps speak their language," he said.
Chief Crown Prosecutor David Blundell, said although small firms could be forced to adapt, the new system would revolutionise the way the defence worked in court.
"The review is introducing market forces into the system so there will be competition between firms who should then bid for work," he said.
"The expectation is that firms will amalgamate. The implication for courts and the CPS is that the defence will be very, very efficient, because every delay will be costing the firm money."