Singing from the same hymn sheet?

Last week’s Gazette ran a headline article entitled “Straw’s pay warning to legal aid lawyers” , together with an opinion response here.

The fallout in correspondence can be found here. 

The issue revolves around Lord Chancellor Jack Straw’s comments which were reported as follows;

“Jack Straw said last week that while it is ‘entirely proper’ that lawyers are paid decent rates, running ‘successful legal businesses… is not the purpose of law’.

Compare that to Richard Susskind’s warning very early on in his book “The end of lawyers?” when he writes on page 2;

“…The law is not there to provide a livelihood for lawyers any more than illness prevails in order to offer a living for doctors.  Successful legal businesses may be a by-product of law in society; but it is not the purpose of law.”

Remarkably similar, no?

The current outrage against the Lord Chancellor’s comments should not detract from the broader debate.  The whole profession is facing massive challenges.  It is feasible that a new legal marketplace will evolve very rapidly and the old methods of monetisation, value and reward are unlikely to apply.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Singing from the same hymn sheet?

  1. “running succesful legal businesses” may not be the purpose of law, but barring a radical shakeup of the system it seems to me that the ability for legal aid law firms to continue in business whilst providing a competent, quality service to their clients is absolutely fundamental to access to justice.

    As pointed out in the Gazette correspondence, private practice is currently the only business model available for this purpose and these firms are subject to all the same “free market” forces and risks as other private practice firms, but reliant on legal aid rates for their income.

    If the private practice model is to be retained then surely the government need to accept that the public interest served by these firms is important enough to justify maintaining legal aid rates at a level where they can continue in business and recruit staff?

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    I have long suspected that there is an agenda afoot to make public funded work simply unviable as a private practice endeavour. Once that comes to a head then it will be possible for the Government – any Government, to be able to set up a body of publicly paid solicitors, legal executives and litigation clerks to service the legal aid sector, not dis-similar to the Crown Prosecution Service.

    In that light, Beej777, your comments above could well be a step in that direction.

    You yourself mention a “radical shakeup of the system.” Perhaps the question is when that might be?

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