‘If you can, stick at it’: Jeremy Corbyn tells students to reject commercial law and pursue legal aid dreams

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By Alex Aldridge on

Labour leader pledges to restore justice funding if elected


Jeremy Corbyn has issued a rallying cry to students who long to become legal aid lawyers but are tempted by corporate law because it is a more financially sensible choice.

Speaking at Labour’s Legal Aid Summit this week, party leader Corbyn described the tide of young legal talent flowing towards the City of London as the profession’s focus shifts to commercial law as “not good for anyone” .

Explaining that he often gets law students with an interest in legal aid asking him for work experience, the Labour chief said that he responds to them:

‘How are you going to do that,’ I ask. And they reply, ‘Well it’s a real problem’.

Corbyn continued:

They know the problems of funding it. Most of them end up saying they will do commercial law. That means we have fewer qualified people doing things. And the number of solicitors firms that close because of legal aid cuts means there are whole swathes of the country without any legal aid work.

Revealing that his grandfather was a London solicitor nicknamed the “poor man’s lawyer” because he represented people charged with begging free of charge, Corbyn went on:

At the moment a lot of lawyers feel they can’t be dealing with legal aid, they have to find something else to do, hence the number of firms that don’t want to get involved in legal aid or just do commercial law because that is the only way they can make a living. It is not good for anyone. We need a proper legal system.

The situation is “a deterrent for young people going into law in the future, so we end up with young lawyers not being able to work”, continued the Labour chief, in comments made to a reporter from the Solicitors Journal, before urging wannabe legal aid lawyers to keep going.

If you can, stick at it,” implored Corbyn. “Try and stay there because people need good lawyers. They need that representation. I want to see the restoration of legal aid in the new parliament and hopefully we will have a Labour majority to bring it about.

Steps to reinstate legal aid funding are being led by former justice minister Lord Bach — whose Twitter name is @FightBach. His review of legal aid will be presented at next year’s Labour Party conference as the Corbynistas develop access to justice as one of their signature policies.