Legal aid: Are City lawyers best placed to plug the gap?

Shadow Justice Sec David Lammy’s suggestion BigLaw ought to up professional bono efforts prompts cut up on Twitter

A scorching debate has as soon as once more arisen on social media as to whether or not City lawyers are best placed to plug the hole in authorized assist left due to cuts to authorized help.

Some authorized commenters say City lawyers are skilled in industrial regulation and so wouldn’t essentially have the experience to advise on points reminiscent of social welfare, whereas others argue huge regulation corporations have cash sloshing about that they may put in direction of professional bono funding.

The controversy got here after Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy MP’s suggestion that City regulation corporations ought to up their efforts to present free authorized assist in return for profitable authorities contracts.

In a speech throughout yesterday’s Labour convention, Lammy mentioned the occasion is planning for a brand new state-run nationwide professional bono centre alongside professional bono targets for City corporations to encourage partnership between the private and non-private sector.

“City law firms are making billions in profit, while low-paid workers see their tax bill rise and wages fall,” he mentioned. “This party recognises the importance of the private sector doing their bit in partnership with the public sector.”

Occasion officers pointed to the close to £2 million earnings per companion made by the fairness companions of magic circle corporations Freshfields, Clifford Likelihood and Allen & Overy as examples.

Such a coverage would require City corporations to have met the goal of not less than 35 hours of professional bono authorized companies per lawyer per 12 months to be eligible for presidency contracts.

However some lawyers have been left unimpressed by Lammy’s suggestion, saying that City regulation corporations are higher off funding regulation centres and leaving the skilled consultants to do their job.

“Legal aid lawyers have skills and expertise built over many years of experience in their field,” tweeted Hodge Jones & Allen legal defence companion Raj Chada. “You may think a couple of hours pro bono will cut it but it doesn’t — how about a justice tax instead on wealthy firms?”

Legal affairs correspondent Fiona Bawdon waded into the argument, writing: “What City lawyers have, which social justice lawyers don’t, is spare cash. If they want to support access to justice, they could fund the cost of a case worker or trainee, or towards core costs, so law centres and advice agencies can keep the lights on.”

Bawdon continued: “What social justice organisations don’t need is pressure to accept ‘help’ from junior lawyers, so the big firms can boast about their CSR commitment on social media and can nominate themselves for pro bono awards, presented at ceremonies with ticket prices that just seem bonkers to anyone working in legal aid.”

Regulation Society president I. Stephanie Boyce mentioned: “Lawyers volunteer their time to provide free expert legal advice to the most vulnerable in society on a wide-scale basis and larger law firms have demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting this… However, pro bono should never be a substitute for a properly funded, resourced legal aid and justice system, which is the real solution to providing justice to the vulnerable.”

Lawyers already present an estimated £7 million value of free knowledgeable authorized recommendation per 12 months, with authorized help delivering round £1.7 billion’s value. Some City regulation corporations reminiscent of Herbert Smith Freehills and Travers Smith have professional bono practices, whereas others second their trainees out to authorized recommendation centres. Linklaters and Reed Smith, for instance, have the possibility for his or her trainees to spend six months on secondment to charities and nonprofit organisations.

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