It worries me deeply that legal aid and private fee rates are seldom debated. Many practitioners carry out legal aid work at rates between, say, £30-£50 an hour. However, when a client does not qualify for legal aid, how does the same practitioner justify charging private rates of closer to £150 for the same service?
Many legal aid practitioners claim to be ‘caring’ and ‘helping the most vulnerable of society’, yet the moment a client fails to qualify for legal aid, there is no support for them. I have a client who is not on a high wage. He has failed the legal aid means test by earning a couple of pounds a week over the threshold.
The same firms which were prepared to accept £40 an hour from the government are now demanding £150 an hour from him, in full knowledge that he won’t be able to afford it.
How does one justify this? I could go further and argue that a private client is worthy of lower fee rates, just so that the solicitor does not have to communicate with the Legal Aid Agency and its cumbersome procedures.
Ravi Sethi, Manchester