Well, yes, quite

The first thing we do, let\’s kill all lawyers\”, says a Jack Cade rebel in Shakespeare\’s Henry VI, Part 2. It always gets a laugh and a whoop or two. Kenneth Clarke, secretary of state for justice, knows his audience too: few hearts bleed at cutting lawyers\’ fees. Naturally he blurs the difference between fat cat barristers earning fortunes from legal aid in high-profile criminal cases, whose fees he leaves untouched – and the work of social conscience lawyers, whose fees he is abolishing completely. Public interest lawyers earn very little in law centres and Citizens Advice bureaus, helping people lost in the legal wilderness of welfare, tenancies or working rights. As a result, law centres and CABs will close.

I happen to think that law centres and CABs are a very good thing. But I can still see a clear difference between the two sorts of support for access to the law.

In the one case the State is collating its monstrous power to deprive you of your freedom and liberty. In the other help is required in navigating the monstrous bureaucracy of the Big State. As I say, I can see that the latter is both just and desirable: but it really just isn\’t the same as the former and I\’m not at all surprised, indeed welcome, that the distinction is being made.

It is more important that those accused be able to defend themselves than that those mystified be informed.

5 comments on “Well, yes, quite

  1. Public interest lawyers earn very little in law centres and Citizens Advice bureaus, helping people lost in the legal wilderness of welfare, tenancies or working rights.

    Drain the effing swamp instead of quibbling about lawyers fees.

  2. “In the other help is required in navigating the monstrous bureaucracy of the Big State.”

    Indeed, as SimonF says, the answer isn’t spending even more money helping people work out why Big State is getting in the way; the answer is getting that Big State out of the bloody way altogether.

  3. “Naturally he blurs the difference between fat cat barristers earning fortunes from legal aid in high-profile criminal cases, whose fees he leaves untouched”

    Funnily enough, I was out on the piss at the weekend with two criminal law barristers, at least one of whom is one of these high-profile case wallahs. (He’s my brother in law, and the other is my sister.)
    First thing to say is, I have never known anyone work the hours he works: often pulls all-nighters, works every Saturday morning and all day Sunday, and has done for the last 10 years (we went to the RWC 2003 final in Oz, and he worked non-stop on the plane on the way over).
    He’s quite well paid, but when you look at the number of hours he works it’s less pro rata than I earn.
    Not that either of us complains about that. Choices we made etc.
    However, it’s nonsense to say that his fees are not being cut.
    He recently prosecuted (he also defends) a serious drugs case – the very top end, a two-year undercover op by the old bill – in which his basic fee was £26,000; there would be more on top, but not much – he’d end up with around £30,000 for the job.
    There were 10,000 pages of evidence to go through, and this was just the admitted stuff; lots of irrelevant stuff to read, too.
    He did a good job of nailing the importers (leave aside our own views on drugs) and they all pleaded on the steps of the court, or earlier.
    He worked out that that case effectively took him a quarter of a year’s work.
    OK, even with the hours, £120k pa is not too shabby.
    But then he has to pay quite a lot of chambers rent, he’s VAT-able, he has pension costs etc – the kind of costs many of us face, admittedly, but still.
    The kicker is, under new rules, where a case cracks like this, his fee is cut to 10% of the original.
    Would he do long, complicated cases with this risk hanging over him? No – he’s going to go for lots of shorter cases where if they crack it’s not an issue.
    So his view – I think correct – is that serious criminals will benefit.
    I know this is prosecution-centric, but I thought it was interesting.

  4. Interested, I work in the same capacity as your relative and I’m so enamoured of public funding that I consider my profession’s salvation will be the abolition of public funding. Although, full disclosure, I consider public funding an abomination, just as a matter of principle.

    Ps, fees for prosecuting we’re fixed in 1997 and have remained unchanged ever since.

    Fees for defending remained unchanged between 1997 and 2007, when they increased by about 25%. Over the last couple of years, they’ve been reduced back to about those 1997 levels.

    Of course we pay costs on our businesses at 2012 levels.

  5. Oh, and this afternoon, for the second time in two months, I was the difference between my client being made subject to indeterminate imprisonment, and, er, not. That is, in both cases, because of me they both dodged that bullet.

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