Legal Aid Cuts

by Alex Williams

Legal Aid Cuts

Cuts to the legal aid budget are a familiar part of Government cost-cutting. After all, who weeps over cuts to lawyer's fees? Everyone knows they're just a bunch of overpaid fat cats. Actually, this week's cartoon probably reinforces a slightly dated stereotype - the lawyer who feels entitled to a banker lifestyle at the public expense.

The reality is much less exciting. In truth, the days when a legal aid practice would pay the mortgage, let alone the school fees, are long gone. Nowadays barristers and solicitors struggle to make a living from the public budget, and gaze enviously at their colleagues in private practice.

Even when I was at the Bar, 20 years ago, wise heads counselled going into filthy commerce or the then-fast-growing area of employment law. Anything but family or crime paid for by the legal aid bill. 

Governments facing tough choices on welfare, hospitals, or schools can't resist cutting fees which go to pay lawyers to defend criminals. After all, who cares about them?


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