Legal aid lawyers may recall – with no particular fondness – the speech justice secretary Jack Straw gave back in March advising them to reconsider their earnings expectations.
‘There is certainly nothing ordained by the Almighty which says that of those paid for by the public purse, lawyers should be any higher than other professions.’ He went on: ‘I know that many legal aid lawyers… have earnings comparable to people in the public sector itself.’ Well, as it turns out, that rather depends on with whom you are comparing legal aid lawyers.
Figures released recently by the Office for National Statistics on public sector pay, and collated into a helpful spreadsheet by the Guardian, reveal that legal aid solicitors are in fact among the worst paid in the public sector. Their average salary is £25,000, well below that of junior doctors, nurses – even those without degrees – and firefighters. Indeed, readers may be surprised to learn that even sewage workers get paid more, though legal aid lawyers, with the mountains of bureaucracy they now face, might argue that they have to deal with more crap.
Straw said in his speech: ‘I think it is entirely proper that lawyers are paid decent rates; indeed it is essential to justice that high-quality legal representation is preserved.’
Obiter wonders if he really believes this to be a decent rate of pay to ensure quality representation. But if you are a legal aid lawyer, don’t despair. Maybe your friends in better paid jobs, which would be almost anyone you know except postmen, traffic wardens and road sweepers, will give you something extra special for Christmas.