Government chooses not follow 15% minimum rise recommendation
The Law Society of England and Wales has warned students considering pursuing a career as a criminal solicitor that they’re now “highly unlikely” to earn a “reasonable” income following the government’s decision to implement a “real-terms cut” on legal aid rates.
The stark warning from Chancery Lane came in response to the Ministry of Justice’s decision to increase legal aid fees for solicitors by just 11% in response to the crisis engulfing the criminal justice system.
This is despite an independent review, chaired by Sir Christopher Bellamy KC, recommending an immediate 15% increase as “the minimum necessary as the first step in nursing the system of criminal legal aid back to health after years of neglect”.
Addressing the impact the decision will have on the junior end of the profession, Law Society president Lubna Shuja said:
“Our warning to those entering the profession, and considering a career in criminal defence practice, is that given the current situation with criminal legal aid, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to generate a reasonable professional income from this work.”
Shuja said Justice Secretary Dominic Raab had made the “wrong decision” and the 11% rise in reality equated to a “real-terms cut” on fees that have been frozen since the 1990s.
“Until the government chooses to address the crisis in the criminal justice system, victims will continue to be let down, court delays will increase and talk of being tough on crime will be nothing but empty words,” she said.
“Having seen that direct action gets results, the response from some of our members may be to resort to disruptive tactics,” Shuja added.
A survey undertaken by the Law Society earlier this year found that a whopping 81% of junior lawyers were reluctant to peruse a long-term career in crime, with low pay, long hours and poor work/life balance among the reasons citied by respondents.
In October, criminal barristers suspended their strike action after narrowly accepting the government’s offer of a 15% pay rise.