Students from low-income backgrounds cannot afford to become legal aid lawyers, according to a report published today by the group for Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL).

The report warned that legal aid lawyers were becoming less representative of the clients they help.

It said legal aid reforms, which have led to low levels of pay, poor morale and firm closures, coupled with a ‘complete dearth’ of training opportunities and an increased need for students to do unpaid work experience, have made it ‘harder than ever’ for those from poorer backgrounds to forge a career in legal aid.

YLAL said there should be greater access to the profession through more vocational routes and a review of the ‘prohibitive costs’ of the professional courses required to begin a legal career.

YLAL committee member Sara Lomri said: ‘The government’s national crusade to promote social mobility does not appear to have reached this sector, with the result that lawyers dedicated to helping ordinary people who cannot afford to pay for legal advice are becoming less and less representative of the people they work for.’

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said that ‘since 2002 over £18m has been invested in training contract grants enabling around 750 solicitors to embark on a career in legal aid’.