Legal aid lawyers are paid as little as £20.12 per hour in judicial review cases, public law specialists have revealed, as practitioners are urged to complete a landmark census before it closes today.
For the past two months the Legal Aid Practitioners Group has been conducting a legal aid census to gather information about the backgrounds and experiences of those working on the social justice frontline. The census will be the first detailed exploration of the financial and other pressures forcing lawyers to give up publicly funded work.
After completing the census, Public Law Project did some sums to work out how much its lawyers are paid for legal help, which covers the early stages of a judicial review case. This work includes working out what has happened, gathering information and documents and writing a pre-action protocol letter.
PLP said: ‘It’s tricky to work out the hourly rate because of the bizarre system. A fixed fee of £259 for up to 14(ish) hours of work, or £52.65 per hour if you do more. So we totted up all the hours spent on legal help by our lawyers in 18/19, 19/20 and 20/21 and all the payments for legal help received in each of those years.
‘We included everything that the Legal Aid Agency require we do, but don’t necessarily pay us (and there’s lots of administration and arguing about technicalities).
‘Dividing the average total hours by the average total fees received gives us a very rough estimate (there may be a file or too left to bill). Answer: £20.12 per hour. That’s just one experience, from one part of the legal aid world, but there are many like it.’
The census closes at 11.59pm today.