The Criminal Bar has it seems had its voice heard at last. All too often the press publish the fees of the highest paid solicitors and barristers from public funding but do not publish what the “average” remuneration for a 12 month period is.
Quite often a case which pays a significant amount in fees from the public purse has taken years to resolve and work upon all of the work which has been done having to be accounted for and audited so the fee has to be set against the years it may have taken to prepare.
The basic hourly rate for a solicitor who is performing legal aid work is £52-£60 per hour and from this overheads and support staff also need to be remunerated and vast amounts of regulatory auditing, reviewing and supervision have to be performed.
In addition to this courses have to be undertaken in order to maintain a solicitors right to practice and every year a fee has to be paid for a solicitors practicing certificate.
Barristers are specialist advocates with specialist training and it would be hard to imagine how a case would be presented to a jury and explained without such specialists.
It is true that the image of the barrister as a “fat cat” with a gold watch chain cigar and wig has been around and cartooned on many occasions however that is not the reality most enter the legal profession to make a difference not to their own wealth but to society and because they want to make a difference, it is hard to imagine another profession where payments have stood still for as many years.
Crime barristers are often representing the most underprivileged members of society and those who have the least so they can not afford to pay themselves.
The government has tried in the past to implement “public defenders” which failed, it will be a shame to see the job of a crime barrister consigned to a crime drama on television which could well be the case in future.