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20 February 2015

Law Society Responds To BT Debate Article

 Dear Editor

I write with reference to the article “Let them flip their wigs, but lawyers must take a hit too” which contained inaccuracies and misrepresentations which need addressed.Current spending of approximately £100 million each year on legal aid constitutes around 10% of the budget of the Department of Justice. Overall, this is around 1% of total public expenditure set out in the Executive’s Budget for 2015/2016.

Therefore the assertion that legal aid is “extracting vast sums of money from the public purse” is inaccurate.There have already been substantial cuts to legal aid however there is no recognition in the article of this or the significantly higher levels of social and economic deprivation which logically result in greater pressure on a demand-led service.

The article references the ‘Top 100’ firms by legal aid earnings yet there is no recognition that solicitors’ practices are significant employers within the small and medium-sized business sector contributing to the local economy.

The 15% proposed levy will unilaterally reduce payment for work already completed at an established rate, placing strains on practice finances and upsetting business planning.

The article asks “why don’t they reduce their exorbitant fees” yet no awareness is exhibited of the significant cuts already made to Crown Court fees nor proposals for further cuts to civil and criminal legal aid.

The article suggests that taxpayers are not protected in relation to legal aid work is incorrect as the legal aid fund is heavily regulated in accordance with the law.A reasoned and informed public discussion about the provision of legal aid is required.

ARLEEN ELLIOTT

President

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