Few junior lawyers see criminal defence as a viable long-term career, according to the unsurprising results of a Law Society survey.
Chancery Lane has long warned that the criminal defence sector is on its way to becoming extinct. Data published earlier this year showed the number of duty solicitors under 35 has plummeted.
In a flash poll aimed at junior lawyers, the Society asked participants if they believed that criminal law was an attractive long-term career. Only 19% of the 139 people who completed the survey said ‘yes’. Nearly all respondents were aged between 18 and 35.
‘What other business is still charging 1995 rates?’ asked one respondent. Another said: ‘Poor money. Poor working environment. Actively maligned by governments. Limited career opportunities. Crushing debt. No trust in the state not to make the above worse,’ another said.
One solicitor practised criminal law for six years before moving to commercial law last year. ‘My reason for moving was simply the poor pay with no prospect of it rising. As a single person the salary was fine but as a parent it is not sustainable. Having moved to commercial law within a year, I have already doubled the salary that I received as a criminal solicitor,’ they added.
The Law Society has been campaigning to save the criminal defence sector from extinction and is expected to produce a hard-hitting response to the government’s controversial criminal legal aid consultation, which closes on 7 June.
Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘The results of our survey come as no surprise given criminal legal aid lawyers haven’t seen a meaningful fee increase in 25 years. The responses from aspiring solicitors underline the imperative for substantial government investment to protect the future of this crucial but endangered profession.’
Ministers have tried to persuade the profession to support the government’s proposals, saying it was no mean feat to secure £135m.
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