With the recent cuts within legal aid, Sam Costigan looks at both the for and against arguments for the cuts, as well as the impact they have had on legal aid, and the legal market.
Originally, legal aid reached out to the majority of the British public, as most people were eligible. As the years went on, legal aid became almost free to all who applied, but eligibility dropped steadily down to nearly 25% before the recession in 2008.
Rounds of cuts from 2004 to 2010 introduced fixed fees for certain types of cases and areas of law. This meant many practices pulled out of working within complicated legal areas such as immigration and asylum that were affected by fixed fees.
Can we reform legal aid?
Often the argument for the reform of legal aid is that the British system is one of the most expensive in the world. However, opponents to the cuts now argue that other countries use a different system to Britain. They use an analytical system, meaning that their costings are geared towards courts and prosecutors and there are fewer cases going to trial.
The pro cuts supporters are backed by the media and their scare tactics, and allude towards Barristers earning six-figure salaries. Nevertheless, legal aid lawyers detract this and promote the fact that the average salary in the sector is just £20,000 to £30,000, compared with other salaries such as; a nurse or GP with salaries of up to £59,000 and MPs at £60,000+.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much chance for cuts campaigners to win their arguments as they are under fire from the overwhelming majority of the legal profession.
The removal of legal aid
In April 2013, the legal aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force, with the intention to cut the legal aid budget by a quarter within a year. The House of Lords defeated the bill numerous times until it eventually passed by a very narrow margin.
For the first time, The House of Lords removed legal aid for the majority of cases, with some specific exceptions – involving family law, clinical negligence and child law. The bill also took away legal aid from all immigration cases, except asylum, as well as housing and benefit cases.
Consequently from the cuts we have seen already, Lawyers have lost both their jobs and their practices to the down fall of legal aid. However, we should also remember the disproportionate and devastating impact the areas of the law covered by legal aid can have upon the public involved in such cases.
At Grovelands, we are supporting Partners, Solicitors and Paralegals that have consequently lost their jobs to these legal aid cuts, understanding that the career path they now need to take to uphold a completely new career venture. We are prepared to put aside the time to listen to each individual case, in order to tailor a new career plan for you.
If you are worried about making the next step towards your next role, it’s certainly not the end of the line. With the relationships Grovelands has, we can match your previous legal experience to new roles within the legal market.