Legal aid boosts the number of lawyers

According to the Daily Mail, the UK now has more lawyers that police officers because of legal aid.

One of my favourite hobbies is to flick through my mum's copy of the paper and show her that everything is definitely the fault of the Jews and anyone with a slightly dusky skin tone... how silly am I going to look next time I do that and it turns out that all the ills of the world are now my fault?

No doubt the Mail's stories are always rigorously researched, but in this case something is quite wrong.  For a start apart from the headline and an incorrect claim that the Law Society opposes cuts to legal aid, when in fact the LS have suggested cuts of £384M compared to the Government's cuts of £350M (they only oppose what is being cut not the cuts themselves), the story doesn't appear to be about legal aid at all, not that the Mail makes that clear.

The Mail points out that there are 165,000 lawyers compared to 142,000 police officers... is that a complaint about legal aid or about the Government not providing sufficient officers?

What the Mail forgets to mention is that just 6% of the 165,000 lawyers actually practice legal aid (that's 9,900 by the way) and that the number of legal aid firms has fallen by more than 60% in the past 10 odd years (down from 5,000 to less than 3,000).  Those simple numbers seem to give lie to the claim made in the headline.

The Mail appears upset that local authorities employ "around a dozen [lawyers] per council".  Local authority lawyers may do many things from advising the council about contracts to prosecuting benefit fraud.  One thing they never do is legal aid work.  I also note that they don't mention that every police force has it's own legal department that employs more lawyers than the average legal aid firm.  Nor do they mention the largest law firm on the face of this planet, which is called the Crown Prosecution Service!  They also forget to mention that the Daily Mail itself employs a whole legal department.

On the subject of trainee solicitors, the Mail points out that the average trainee earns £26,327 per year.  Look at the article and you'll notice that they are no longer talking about legal aid lawyers; they are talking about ALL solicitors (but not barristers).  In fact, the Law Society sets the minimum salary for trainees at about £14,000 per year and if you can find a trainee in a legal aid firm they'll be on a salary much closer to that than to £26K.  If you look at the Gazette you may still find a few ads for newly qualified solicitors in legal aid firms... if you do then outside London the salary offered will probably be around the £19,000 mark and in London between £22-24K.

Law is just like anything else, Norman Foster and my mate Barry are both architects, but Barry doesn't earn anything like Norman Foster.

Finally, I wonder how much the Daily Mail really understands about lawyers (I've dealt with their legal department before and their own lawyers are very good... maybe they should interview them before writing these stories).  I note that they describe barristers as elite lawyers.  I qualified as a barrister and I can assure you that there is nothing elite about the Bar in general; they are simply a different type of lawyer just as a legal executive or notary public is a different type of lawyer.  In fairness, that is a misconception held be many members of the public - a client recently insisted that we instruct a barrister to represent her at a sentencing hearing.  The barrister cost £1,000 (more than my firm was paid) for a hearing that lasted about 20 minutes.  The barrister was an inappropriate choice who called my office to ask us about the law!  So much for elite.

Anyway, the point of this post is really this: love lawyers or hate them, I don't really care but make your decision based on the facts not the rubbish written in the press by journalists who really don't understand their subject area.


  1. My brother got into a spot of bother a few years ago and there was some media fuss. My mother got a handwritten note from a Daily Mail reporter pushed through her letter box asking for an interview. She did the right thing and binned it as she felt that paper would only ever produce a hatchet job.

  2. I think perhaps you do them (Daily Mail journalists) too much credit. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they know exactly what the score is, and simply don't let that get in the way of a good rabble-rousing.

  3. Nor do they mention the largest law firm on the face of this planet, which is called the Crown Prosecution Service!

    Well - Yes. But the average copper would tell you that if the entire service vanished overnight, it would be a giant step in the right direction

  4. "Anyway, the point of this post is really this: love lawyers or hate them, I don't really care but make your decision based on the facts not the rubbish written in the press by journalists who really don't understand their subject area."

    Welcome to my world...... swap the word 'lawyer' for 'policeman' and you know how I feel when I read the news these days!

  5. Great post. Sadly, it's exactly what I expect from the Daily Mail. Keep up the good work.

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