Monday, 24 January 2011

Conservative MP says Lawyers have vested interest in opposing Legal Aid Cuts

Conservative Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns who backs reform to Legal Aid Cuts has labelled those working in the legal profession as lacking objectivity. He said: "Of course, some of these strongest opponents come from the legal profession whose incomes depend on the money that comes from legal aid so I hardly think they're the most objective people. There's a significant amount of waste and a significant amount of expenditure that could be drawn from elsewhere."

Rich coming from someone who has not had to struggle over the years on a very low hourly rate and who probably has no idea how difficult it is now becoming for a person on limited funds to gain access to the legal system.

UK Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has proposed cutting legal aid by £350m a year by 2015. The UK government has said it hopes this will lead to "cheaper and more efficient justice". Funding for a wide range of disputes, including some divorce cases and clinical negligence, is to be axed.

As with most of these cost cutting announcements the Government has not given any detail about the figures quoted, nor has it given any thought of the long term cost of making these cuts. If this forces more litigants to go it alone, how will this impact on Court time and resources? Furthermore by introducing competition this will lead to younger and inexperienced advocates and the number of appeals will no doubt increase as will dissatisfaction amongst the end user.

Despite media perception of the law, most lawyers practising these days are very cost conscious and have had the merits of mediation and conciliation drilled into them from an early age. By making it easier and less expensive to instruct a good and competent lawyer issues particularly those of as social nature are more likely to be resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of the end user than they would if left to the individual or less experienced lawyer to handle. Many lawyers also play the role of a 'social worker' to many clients and help to ensure clients receive the support they need - by removing the lawyer from this environment the Government could very well face larger 'bills' in other areas of social support, and even perhaps increased social unrest.

The message is simple: think long and hard about the impact of these cuts – do not make knee jerk decisions as these could prove costly in the long run.

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