‘No incentive’ to practice criminal law, say junior lawyers

A group representing solicitors up to five years’ qualified has accused the government’s plans for reforming advocate fees of favouring the senior Bar at the expense of the rest of the profession. The Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has more than 70,000 members, including students and trainees, and responded to the Ministry of Justice’s Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme consultation to highlight their concern in relation to the likely impact on solicitor advocates with higher rights of audience.

The Law Society, which pulled out of a working group, accused ministers of doling out ‘a New Year pay hike’ to the QCs. In its response, Chancery Lane cited an MoJ impact assessment which projected a potential increase of around 10% for silks.

In its response, the JLD said it was ‘extremely concerned’ that the ‘uplift of remuneration’ for QC’s ‘disadvantages solicitor advocates, and in particular those junior advocates who undertake criminal advocacy’. B y contrast, the Bar Council’s Young Barristers’ Committee backed ‘the underlying rationale’ of the proposals although flagged up ‘some (extremely important) matters of detail’. It rejected the case for cost neutrality, as reported here.

‘The MoJ’s proposals could reduce the remuneration available to junior advocates and instead increase remuneration for QC’s,’ the JLD argued. ‘There is no incentive for junior lawyers to qualify into criminal law, which is already an area that has been subject to considerable fee cuts through legal aid reforms, and the MoJ’s proposals only seek to reduce the potential for junior lawyers to earn a living even further.’

‘The JLD is of the view that if it not seen as financially viable for junior lawyers to specialise in criminal law there is the potential for a lack of representation available for defendants in the future. This would have a negative impact on the choice available for consumers.’
The Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division

The group argued that the proposals would have ‘a direct impact on those from lower socio-economic backgrounds entering the profession who wish to specialise in criminal law as it simply would not be financially viable for them’. ‘The JLD would not wish for there to be a position where only those with sufficient independent means can afford to work as a criminal advocate.’


About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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