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Fund legal aid training contracts and pupillages, MPs and peers urge government

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Cross-party group call on SRA to include social welfare modules in new SQE

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A cross-party group of politicians and peers are calling on the government to fund legal aid training contracts and pupillages.

The Westminster Commission on Legal Aid’s inquiry into the sustainability and viability of the legal aid sector published this week notes a “crisis” in recruitment and retention at the junior end of the legal aid profession.

It urges the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to reinstate funding for training and qualification placements within legal aid law firms, not for profit organisations (NfPs) such as law centres and pro bono agencies, as well as chambers which undertake publicly-funded work.

“We believe further investment should be made in the sector to allow firms, NfPs and chambers to recruit, train and retain new lawyers,” the report says.

The Commission said that, prior to 2010, more than 750 trainees had benefited from MoJ-funded grants of over £20,000 each to help cover their training fees and salary.

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Other bodies have stepped in to assist with these costs, most notably the Legal Education Foundation’s Justice First Fellowship Scheme, but “this is able to help far smaller numbers of prospective lawyers” (about 15 to 20 per year).

“It is our recommendation that publicly funded grants should be reinstated for solicitors, barristers and legal executives to ensure an adequate pipeline of new practitioners into the sector,” the report says, while not specifying how many there should be.

The report goes on to recommend the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) work with the legal profession and education and training providers to ensure that the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) includes modules on social welfare law.

“It is vital that the sector continues to encourage bright and committed individuals to its ranks and that the profession remains as open to those from diverse backgrounds as it always has been,” it says.

The Commission’s inquiry comes weeks after shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy MP suggested that City law firms and their lawyers should increase efforts to provide free legal support in return for lucrative government contracts.

The Commission, set up last year by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid, was chaired by Karen Buck MP. Its members included Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Baroness Natalie Bennett, Lord Willy Bach, Lord Colin Low, Daisy Cooper MP, James Daly MP and Gareth Bacon MP.

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8 Comments

Wigan Pier

This will do nowt for retention imo, I can’t imagine that any exit options will pay less than legal aid even with a funding boost (which is unlikely to be sustained through the PQEs). The cost of living is ridiculous and unless you’re born wealthy and can afford to live off these salaries, this area of law barely pays the rent. Some things just straight up need funding and not overengineering – legal aid is one of them.

(15)(0)

Touker

The City is full of well-paid sweatshops, what’s the point of going into legal aid? The ‘moral virtue’ of working in legal aid and £2 will get you a cup of coffee.

(5)(0)

anon.

I wouldn’t touch legal aid with a barge pole. The reality is, you have to be a certain type of person to be attracted to this type of career/sector; charitable and willing to work for literal peanuts. The government paying for training will do nothing to boost uptake. Why work 40 hrs a week for a peanut in legal aid, chasing the CPS for evidence and finding witnesses that won’t show anyway when you can work the same hours and have a considerably higher salary in something as equally drab as wills and probate working for a high street firm.

(4)(0)

Jake

Ordinary Working class can not afford solicitors fees or to get entangled in a legal argument in court in case they are not properly adviced and they end up with a big solicitors fee and other sides costs…

Some feel Solicitors fees should be more affordable to the average working class people

(0)(0)

Jake

In some peoples experience some solicitors rearly engage with client once they have the legal aid certificate and in some cases people feel it was pointless having solicitor who didn’t engage very much with them……. We need affordable solicitors advice for those not working and the majority on very low income that boost there income by working over time to pay the bills there debts in some cases and anough money to keep a roof over there’s and there family’s head

(0)(1)

Janet

I just wrote a response and wasn’t shown

(0)(0)

Janet

Solicitors should be available for everyone at an affordable fee high hourly rates do not fall in line with people who work every hour to keep a roof over there’s and there family’s head..
In alot cases work over time to pay bills and other debts and need a lone in some cases to get legal representation

(0)(0)

Janet

In some cases £280 an hour for the average working person to have legal representation that’s a lot money to pay when earning less than £10 an hour….. Some feel Lower solicitors fees is what’s needed…. So everyone gets a fair hearing

(0)(0)

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