Bench

A little off-piste for me, but I thought I’d offer my two pence on the current furore around swingeing cuts to Legal Aid.

I guess the government figured it could get away with Legal Aid cuts because who is going to shed a tear for a group of people who are perceived to be highly-paid, inefficient and old-fashioned (leaving aside the idea that such people are almost certainly going to be political enemies to boot…)?

Its justification for the £750m cut to the Legal Aid budget is that the UK has one of the highest Legal Aid budgets of any comparable economy. Well duh.

The reason the Legal Aid budget in the UK is so high is because the legal sector in the UK is so successful, much more so than any other comparable economy and second only to the US in the global economy. And that success means that salaries for lawyers in the UK are going to be proportionately higher than in other comparable economies, and that inevitably filters through to Legal Aid solicitors (and barristers).

The consequence of these cuts is to create a two-tier legal system, with low-paid, probably unqualified legal advisers replacing solicitors, and access to justice for the most vulnerable inevitably denied.

The irony of it, of course, is that the reason salaries in the sector are proportionately higher than in competitor economies is due to the mechanism the government claims to cherish above all others: the market. Yet there is no market logic in demanding a service be cheaper than the relevant industry can produce. Not unless you don’t give a damn about the quality of the product, that is.

So, not only does its attack on Legal Aid hit the most vulnerable hardest, but its attack on the profession cuts across the very principle it claims to hold dear. Clearly, we have a new definition for the word ‘cynical’.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Marked fields are required.