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Solicitors and Legal Aid

Story here about legal aid solicitors getting paid less than sewage workers and prison officers.

I am sorry to sound unsympathetic, but I don’t see the linkage between legal aid rates for solicitors and the salary that solicitors receive?

From a business perspective it is up to a firm to decide what to pay their solicitors and also what mix if any of legal aid and private paying work to take on. If any business takes on loss leading or low margin work, it is not the state’s responsibility to interfere with the business choices made by a business owner or owners.

I often wonder what training (if any) solicitors have had in running a business, and whether your average firm has SEO people, marketers, accountants and others in house? Of course the big firms have and they reap the benefits of that approach. For those who say that they cant afford in-house people then sub the work out to people from Elance or People per Hour.

I hear the argument that people will not have access to justice if lawyers desert legal aid work in their droves but I don’t accept that a representation wasteland is necessarily what’s left. The state should provide lawyers directly for such cases, and not sub-contract this work out to what I imagine are tens of thousands of Legal Aid suppliers as at present. The economies of scale don’t make sense for anyone and as the State holds all the data needed to check eligibility it takes out the middleman or woman.

There is little doubt that the State needs kept in check, no matter which party or parties are in power, and it goes without saying that any cases where the state is a party the lawyers should not come from the state pool, and that strategically important work should be at rates that doesn’t make the work seem unattractive to the best lawyers.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • McKenzie April 2, 2010, 10:31 am

    I accept that solicitors do unpaid work on occasion because those who employ them expect it from them.

    I also accept that solicitors with green credentials may do unpaid work as do feminist lawyers for Women’s Aid. That is an ideological choice.

    It is less easy to believe that your common garden solicitor does a lot of unpaid work for their clients. I find the converse to be true, with overbilling stamped into the public consciousness.

    If you know of any solicitors in Northern Ireland or England and Wales that do unpaid work in the traditional pro bono sense then I will contact them on behalf of some family law clients who do not have money yet don’t qualify for public funding.

    I also don’t accept the ‘straw man’ argument that just because it is said that the system in the Republic of Ireland doesn’t function properly, that we should avoid changing the system in Northern Ireland. On the contrary we should be thankful of the lessons that have been learned from Eire’s experience.

  • Seymour Major April 2, 2010, 7:43 am

    The points you make are interesting but I think you have ignored the fact that solicitors do a lot of unpaid work. The motivation for doing such work hardly exists in the state sector.

    In the Republic of Ireland, the State does run the supply of legal aid for Matrimonial Work. The result is that there is a long queue for the service. The solicitors struggle to get through their work. The system is in chaos and everybody complains.

    The Government will not save money by employing the Legal Aid lawywers unless it decides to ignore justice and human rights.