Seems the Daily Mail hasn’t made a ‘be nicer to the legal profession’ resolution
Right-wing news site the Daily Mail has kicked off the new year with a pretty brutal article about how greedy the legal profession is.
The piece, ‘Lawyers raked in £32.2bn in just ONE year: Figure goes up by a quarter in just five years’, seemingly questioned why lawyers have been striking over their earnings when the profession has been “booming”.
According to an unnamed reporter — the piece notably lacks a byline — last year “lawyers across Britain achieved a turnover of £32.2 billion, almost 24% more than the £26.0 billion they earned in 2011”. This happened “despite strikes by barristers over their pay levels and protests from senior lawyers who demand greater taxpayer subsidies”. Quoting director of the Civitas think tank Dr David Green, the article then says:
The law has become a massive gravy train, and disputes are now regarded by lawyers not as an occasion for the application of justice but as an opportunity to make money. The legal profession has lost its way morally.
Below the line in the infamous Daily Mail comments section, some spectators were quick to join the anti-legal profession brigade. Among the top-rated was a comment describing lawyers as “professional liars”; another went with “legalised pick pockets”.
Of course, there are two sides to every story, and here to provide an official, pro-profession line was Bar Council chairman Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC. She eloquently made clear that readers should not tar all lawyers with the same fat-cat brush, stating:
It is important to recognise that whereas the overall income of the legal profession has risen, largely due to increasing demand for international legal services, there are sectors of the profession that are suffering, notably those that are committed to providing services to the economically weakest in our society. As a result of successive governments making substantial cuts to legal aid for criminal cases, and the complete removal of legal aid in many social welfare and family areas, many citizens have been deprived of legal representation, and of meaningful access to justice.
Interestingly, an unusually pro-lawyer swathe of commenters were on hand to side with Doerries. One said:
The lawyers that went on strike do legal aid work for peanuts, the £32b lawyers made in total is not from legal and most certainly not from no win no fee, but don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!!
A fellow disgruntled commenter added:
A typically misleading article DM — those striking are legal aid lawyers who are certainly not the ones earning those sums.
Some legal bloggers became so irate by the piece, they put pen to paper and wrote their own responses to it. In particular, criminal barrister Jaime Hamilton’s and anonymous advocate the Secret Barrister both had some strong words for the unknown Daily Mail reporter.
We’re calling this one as a victory for the lawyers, but we doubt it’ll be the last time the Daily Mail directs its fury at the legal profession. It’s certainly not the first: in 2016 the tabloid did its best to dig its claws into solicitors and barristers alike.
Back in May, outspoken columnist Jan Moir aimed fire at Doughty Street barrister Amal Clooney. She described the human rights specialist as “Kim Kardashian with a law degree”. Poor Clooney was also called a “knicker-flasher” with “flamingo legs” in Moir’s nasty opinion piece, which featured this gem of a line:
[Clooney] works for the right-on, Left-wing Doughty Chambers in London, a set of self-regarding high-achievers who like to call themselves human rights lawyers, but surely all law is human rights?
Oh dear, but that wasn’t the last of it. Throughout the year, the newspaper was quick to call out human rights law firms which sue the Ministry of Defence, and who could possibly forget that Brexit legal challenge headline?
Here’s to another year of the Daily Mail’s lawyer bashing.