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Pay Cut for $2M Legal Aid Lawyers

Posted Dec 10, 2007 12:27 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Unlike their American counterparts, some British lawyers make a more-than-comfortable living as legal aid lawyers. Barristers reportedly can earn as much as a million pounds annually—that's a little over $2 million in U.S. dollars—for defending complex criminal cases.

But this cushy situation is about to change, as the Legal Services Commission is fine-tuning a plan to reduce costs by limiting hourly fees for barristers and by teaming them with solicitors to increase economic efficiency, reports the London Times. The plan, which is to take effect early next year, would pay barristers roughly 150 pounds (a little over $300) per hour for the most complex legal defense work, and as little as 89 pounds (about $180) for what the newspaper describes as "middle-ranking terrorism, fraud and murder cases."

If they were working privately, barristers could earn as much as 500 pounds (that's slightly over $1,000) per hour instead of 89 pounds.

The new plan reportedly applies to the 100 longest, most complex trials overseen by the LSC, which presently are costing the country some 100 million pounds (more than $200 million) in legal aid fees.

It is criticized by the head of the Bar, Tim Dutton, who says it may adversely affect more than a dozen terrorism trials. Under the proposed pay scale, he says, "“There is a real danger that we are not going to attract the best advocates into the hardest cases.”

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