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Criminal defence solicitors face extinction, warns Law Society

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Lack of young lawyers entering the field has left justice system facing a ‘cliff edge scenario’

Criminal defence solicitors may become extinct in parts of England and Wales within five years, according to the Law Society. The warning from Chancery Lane coincides with the publication of an interactive heatmap showing the ageing profile of criminal solicitors across the country.

Law Society president Joe Egan warned that government cuts to legal aid coupled with an increasingly ageing profession mean the criminal justice system is facing a “cliff edge scenario”. Egan continued:

“There are not enough young lawyers entering the field of criminal defence work.”

The Law Society’s new heatmap shows that across Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, West Wales and Mid Wales, over 60% of criminal solicitors are over 50-years-old. Across the profession as a whole, just over a quarter (27%) of solicitors are 50 or over. Incredibly, in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cornwall and Worcestershire there are no criminal solicitors under 35, according to the stats.

A screenshot of the Law Society’s interactive heatmap

As an interesting aside, Egan himself hit headlines last year after it emerged that his firm, Bolton outfit Joe Egan Solicitors, was paying its rookies below the recommended solicitor minimum wage. At the time Egan cited, among other things, government cuts to legal for failing to cough up the cash.

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Returning to today’s depressing data, Egan added:

“Criminal justice is at the heart of a democratic society and duty solicitors ensure a fundamental part of the justice system is upheld. Twenty years without any increases in fees, and a series of drastic cuts have pushed the criminal justice system to the point where lawyers can no longer see a viable career doing this work.”

Today’s findings will come as no surprise to solicitors currently plying their trade at the legal aid coal face.

Last year, the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) said there was “no incentive” for young solicitors to qualify into criminal law. The organisation — which represents lawyers, trainees and students — slammed the government’s swingeing cuts to legal aid, and argued that this would prevent aspiring criminal solicitors from lower socio-economic backgrounds from entering the profession.

Earlier today, Legal Cheek reported that 90 chambers now publicly support the Criminal Bar Association’s (CBA) call for direct action in response to fresh government cuts to legal aid. In a message to its members, CBA chair Angela Rafferty QC said that the bar’s “resolute approach” had led to a “watershed moment”.

Barristers have been refusing to take new publicly-funded cases since April 1. This is in response to the government’s changes to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), which barristers say will result in further cuts to their income.

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14 Comments

Anonymous

We need socialism, now

Tax the City to pay for legal aid

75% taxes for higher earners

Vote Corbyn

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Agreed brother. My only correction – that should be 100% tax on higher earners. That’s fair.

Anonymous

How do you know your fellow traveller is a man?

Apart from being deluded, Corbyn’s acolytes are irredeemably sexist (and racist, and bullying).

Corbyn. Symphathiser

That’s not true, actually.

Snake

I see someone cleared their cookies 38 times go down rate the above…

Anonymous

Yipee now I know how to do it – thanks! Have a thumbs up on me whilst I test this out…

Does the same thing work on the Daily Mail?

Anonymous

I would give it a crack for a change of scenery. Couldn’t live on under 80k these days though and doubt I’d be able to command that type of income in that field

Anonymous

Most people manage reasonably well on £25,000. What is so special about your needs?

Anonymous

Oh please, most British people have a laughably low quality of life for a G7 country.

When I first moved here from the States 5 years ago I was absolutely shocked how little people were willing to be paid. Before moving I was a full-time student with a few part-time internships; even with the exchange rate I brought home more per year than the average UK household outside of London.

But I guess you’re right, if you’re happy living a boring and scum life than yah, £25,000 is manageable. Enjoy your Fosters and avoiding the TV license people.

Anonymous

My partner, a recent LPC grad, would love to be a criminal solicitor AND we live in Worcestershire.

However, there are no opportunities for younger people, lacking in experience to become criminal solicitors.

Something has to give somewhere or the system is about to collapse in on its self…

Mumsy

Criminal can be quite homophonic, so that might be your problem

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

Terrible clients, terrible pay, high case loads due to strains on the system, same liability for professional negligence if you mishandle any of the little money you receive or mess up on a client file, and very little recognition from society (“Oh, you represent those scummy chavs that ripped off the B&Q again? Tragic”).

And all of this is readily available for you if you’re willing to get high marks in an incredibly difficult degree subject, and be more competitive than the hordes of law graduates fighting for each training contract seat to become a qualified solicitor!

Woooooo sign me the F*** up!

The government has financial assistance packages with the major trade apprenticeships: help legal aid firms sponsor more training contracts at a wage appropriate for a lawyer plus offer large tax incentives for firms/partners that maintain a practice of over 50% legal aid work. This idea literally took one second to think up, are you telling me no one in government has considered this?

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Sorry, this plan would benefit people who aren’t millionaire Tory donors.

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