Author: Anthony Edwards
Law Society Publishing
Whatever you do, do not flick through the last pages of this book first; for there you will find a list of the hourly rates experts are paid. Most of these are medics of one kind or another. A neurosurgeon gets £171, a surgeon £135 and a GP £99. Not bad. I wonder what a legal aid lawyer’s average hourly rate is.
In 2006 there was a proposal to change the way criminal legally aided cases were paid. ‘Revisions to the current magistrates’ court standard fee scheme should be made to shift more payment in to fees for productive work in the early stages of a case and away from … travel and waiting costs. This should reward more efficient practices and provide appropriate incentives for early preparation and resolution’ (Lord Carter, Legal aid: A market-based approach to reform 2006).
Not many lawyers would argue against rewarding efficient practices and being paid for more productive work. In reality the profession may have concluded that rewards and incentives were not uppermost in the government’s mind, rather fixed fees were a way of limiting the cost of legal aid and reducing the number of suppliers. However, it is a system that the profession now has to work with.
This book is good value. It covers not only magistrates’ court fees but Crown court, police station work and prison law. It explains this complex area in a clear way. It will probably be non-lawyers who are doing the billing.
Although nearly two-thirds of the book is made up of appendices, they are vital.
I wonder if the rest of the profession will catch up with legal aid eventually. Will fixed fees cover the majority of legal work of all types? Fixed fees probably do reward efficiency and productive work if pitched at the right level.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott