A storm is a comin’

Uh – oh…perhaps I’d better stay on maternity leave. There may be no family bar to come back to if what I am reading in the press is anything to go by. According to private briefings given by the LSC to the press this week we are in for a 15% cut of our fees. And according to the LSC thats 15% of the ‘average family legal aid income of £140k’. This was reported yesterday by The Times. Of course there have been no figures provided to back up this patently bonkers figure – I WISH it were true but I’m pretty certain that most family lawyers make far less than 140k AND supplement their legal aid income by doing privately paid work. Of course some make much more than £140k but then some family lawyers are involved in extremely complex and lengthy cases which require an immense amount of work and expertise (think non-accidental injury or sexual abuse cases which may run for weeks and have multiple experts and related criminal proceedings).

.

And of course chucking some highish sounding figure out into the public domain in order to insinuate to the bloke on the clapham omnibus that family barristers are all loaded ignores the fact that, as a rule of thumb, we can expect to take home something less than 50p in the pound after VAT, expenses and tax. And ignores the fact that, at the bar, if you break a leg or want to start a family – you don’t get paid anything at all (apart from £117 p/w maternity allowance which the government has taken three months to pay me). If you want to go on holiday you pay for the holiday twice – once for the flight and once for the unpaid time off (and if that trial goes long you’ll just have to cancel it). Nobody contributes to your pension. Nobody gives you a redundancy payment if your work dries up. And you don’t know how much is going to come in from month to month. And of course it ignores the fact that for many of us a significant portion of the income we do have left is spent servicing the debts we incurred getting qualified. And that’s quite apart from the question of how much work we do for the money we get (a lot for a little). 

.

So it appears that the LSC have decided to do a bit of early groundwork prior to their ‘consultation’ about family grad fees and insinuate great wealth and waste by chucking around a few unsubstantiated figures. Unsurprisingly the Bar Council and the FLBA are a little hot under the collar about it – and frankly I’d be a little disappointed with them if they weren’t. It really is no wonder that we are all such cynics at the bar, if the LSC behaves in such a way. And so now there appears to be some kind of battle of the briefings. Yesterday’s strongly worded press release from the Bar Council / FLBA is here. God only knows what will happen next, but I don’t hold out much hope for a pay rise as a result of the forthcoming ‘consultation’, such consultations traditionally involving (as far as I can tell) assertions by the LSC / the government based upon partial, undisclosed or inaccurate statistical information and resulting in a complete disregard of any response that tends to suggest that further cuts might not be value for money or might damage access to justice.   

.

It really makes me think I must be mad to be in this job sometimes. Look at it from my perspective – I’m coming back to work after only three months of maternity leave simply because I can’t afford not to. And I’m launching straight into a five day trial because its my case and I am professionally committed to do it, even though it probably means I will have to give up breastfeeding my own baby to do it. I don’t mind doing all that – its in the nature of the job – but when it is suggested that we get paid over the odds for doing a bit of fast talking it makes my blood boil. Its no wonder the public have a low opinion of us when those who are paying the bill go around suggesting we aren’t worth what we’re paid. 

.

Hey ho, maybe I’d be better off staying at home and claiming tax credits…?

One thought on “A storm is a comin’

  1. […] 25, 2008 by familoo Since my last post regarding the proposed cuts in family legal aid and the press coverage of it, it appears that […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *