Civil legal aid review in the pipeline, agency reveals | News

The government has quietly revealed that it will embark on a major review of civil legal aid – but the chief executive of a practitioner group warns it could be too little, too late to prevent the sector shrinking further.

The Legal Aid Agency announced yesterday that it was extending 2018 standard civil contracts until 31 August 2024 ‘to allow us time to consider findings from the planned Ministry of Justice Civil Legal Aid Review’.

The ministry has repeatedly told the Gazette that the government has been conducting an internal review on civil legal aid sustainability. Yesterday’s announcement appears to be the first official confirmation of a major review.

A spokesperson for the MoJ told the Gazette today that more detail on the terms of reference and process for the review will be announced shortly.

As well as the findings of its internal sustainability review, the ministry will have a wealth of research to feed into the review, including the Law Society’s review on sustainability and the findings of the Legal Aid Practitioner Group’s legal aid census.

After conducting what is believed to be the biggest inquiry on legal aid, the Westminster Commission on Legal Aid published a 95-page report this time last year. The House of Commons justice select committee also conducted an inquiry on the future of legal aid.

According to government figures, there were 1,369 providers with civil contracts in February 2022. There were 2,134 providers in April 2012 – a year before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force. LASPO removed vast areas of law – such as housing family, immigration, employment and welfare benefits – out of scope for legal aid. The LAA has repeatedly had to plug gaps in advice provision, particularly in housing.

Law Society president I.

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Scotland’s most deprived communities facing ‘chronic’ shortage of legal aid firms

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Scotland’s most deprived communities facing chronic shortage of legal aid firms

Thousands of people in Scotland’s most deprived communities are facing a chronic shortage of civil legal aid firms, lawyers have warned.

The Law Society of Scotland said the 100,000 people living in the most deprived communities had access to just 29 civil legal aid firms.

Legal aid for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month.

The Law Society, which represents the legal profession, said many people in these communities will be forced to represent themselves in divorce proceedings, child custody hearings and immigration hearings.

It has long argued that the Scottish Government’s funding for legal aid is insufficient, and law society president Murray Etherington said the system was in “crisis” in July.

The Law Society has teamed up with author and commentator, Darren McGarvey, to campaign for improvements in legal aid provision in deprived communities.

Darren McGarvey

Mr McGarvey, author of Poverty Safari, said: “Just imagine standing in a courtroom on your own to argue your case, up against an experienced solicitor. Now imagine that the custody of your child is at stake.

“Or a life-changing payout after an industrial accident.

“The absurdity of that proposition, combined with inequalities within the justice, healthcare, and education systems, is exactly why I am supporting the Law Society of Scotland to highlight the real issues that real people in Scotland face. Something has to change.”

He continued: “Those who are already most disadvantaged are having their last line of defence pulled away from them.

“The Scottish Government has let inflation quietly chip away at legal aid fees over the last two decades – now we need to catch up.”

Ministers have

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SNP hits back at accusations poor have limited access to legal aid

The Law Society of Scotland has called for an increase in fees for legal aid

The Law Society of Scotland has called for an increase in fees for legal aid

More than 40,000 people living in the poorest areas of a Scottish city do not have direct access to a single firm offering legal aid, according to analysis.

Research by the Law Society of Scotland found there were no firms operating in 50 of Aberdeen’s “most deprived” data-zones.

In the worst affected areas, there were 29 firms for 100,000 people and nearly nine in 10 had no local access at all.

The Society says chronic shortages of firms offering legal aid is being compounded by the fact that fees agreed in 1999 had only increased by 10 per cent, compared to an inflation increase of 55%.

However, the Scottish Government said it was “up to legal firms or solicitors” to offer services or to take a case on legal aid within an area, and added: “we can’t compel them to do so”.

It said the decline in the number of legal aid firms reflects, in the main, long-term declines in both criminal and civil case-loads.

READ MORE: Ministers say Scots legal aid system is among the best in the world as lawyers say court justice is ‘on brink of collapse’

Support for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month – above that amount, there is a cost to be paid, which can be up to full repayment of fees.

The most common civil court cases include divorce and child contact or custody, adoption and immigration and asylum cases but may also involve medical negligence or securing social welfare payments.

The Scottish Government recently proposed an £11 million increase in spend across both criminal and civil legal aid – but this has been described

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Warning Scots can’t access legal aid

Scottish Government urged to take action

Thousands of Scotland’s most deprived families are facing the prospect of representing themselves in court thanks to a chronic shortage of civil legal aid firms.

New analysis by the Law Society of Scotland shows that the 139 most deprived communities in Scotland, resident to around 100,000 people, share just 29 civil legal aid firms between them. There are no civil legal aid firms at all in 122 of the 139 areas.

Of the legal firms in these areas, nearly 90,000 (87064) people are left without any local access at all.

Legal aid is a critical service affecting a range of life-altering situations and is the only way Scotland’s poorest families can secure legal support.

Often, it is during some of life’s tougher moments that people will find themselves in need of legal aid support.

Legal aid for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month – above that amount, there is a cost to be paid, which can be up to full repayment of the legal aid cost.

The most common civil court cases include dealing with divorce and child contact or custody; adoption; immigration and asylum cases; and deportation. They also routinely involve securing compensation for medical negligence, securing social welfare payments and other financial situations.

Murray Etherington, president of the Law Society of Scotland said: “Legal aid is a fundamental part of Scottish society. The lack of representation available to those who need it most continues to be an unresolved issue. We have to stop looking at it as just a problem for solicitors – it is a problem for everyone.

£The recently proposed Scottish Government increase in funding may provide a short-term sticking plaster, but it won’t address the deep wounds

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100,000 most disadvantaged Scots face representing themselves in court amid legal aid ‘crisis’

Thousands of the most deprived people in Scotland face having to represent themselves in court as a result of a chronic “crisis” in access to legal aid, lawyers have warned.

The Law Society of Scotland have said 100,000 people living in the country’s most deprived communities have access to just 29 civil legal aid firms.

Calls for the Scottish Government to act have been backed by author and poverty campaigner Darren McGarvey who has said those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are having their “last line of defence pulled away from them”.

The analysis from the Law Society, which represents the legal profession, shows that the 139 most deprived communities in Scotland, resident to around 100,000 people, share just 29 civil legal aid firms between them. There are no civil legal aid firms at all in 122 of the 139 areas.

Of the legal firms in these areas, nearly 90,000 (87064) people are left without any local access at all.

Legal aid for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month.

Commentator, activist, and award-winning author Darren McGarvey has backed the calls of the Law Society of Scotland.The Law Society of Scotland

The Law Society has warned that people now face being forced to represent themselves in divorce proceedings, child custody hearings and immigration hearings.

The campaign has now been backed by Darren McGarvey, author of Poverty Safari.

He said: “Just imagine standing in a courtroom on your own to argue your case, up against an experienced solicitor. Now imagine that the custody of your child is at stake.

“Or a life-changing payout after an industrial accident.

“The absurdity of that proposition, combined with inequalities within the justice, healthcare, and education systems, is exactly

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How much do new public interest lawyers earn? Despite raises, pay is well below that of law firms, NALP says

Lawyer Pay

How much do new public interest lawyers earn? Despite raises, pay is well below that of law firms, NALP says

money and scissors

Image from Shutterstock.

Median salaries are growing for lawyers working in civil legal services and public interest organizations, but there are still “sobering distinctions” when compared to law firm pay, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

Since 2018, the median starting pay for lawyers in civil legal services has increased by $9,500, while the median pay for new attorneys doing legal work for public interest organizations increased by $12,700, according to a June 22 press release from the NALP.

Salary growth was lower for public defenders, whose median starting pay increased only by $1,400 since 2018.

Median pay is:

    • $57,500 for new legal services lawyers, increasing to $78,500 for those with 11 to 15 years of experience.
    • $59,700 for new public defenders, increasing to $100,500 for those with 11 to 15 years of experience.
    • $63,200 for new lawyers in public service organizations, increasing to $95,000 for those with 11 to 15 years of experience.

The NALP didn’t publish figures on lawyers in local prosecution offices because it did not receive enough responses.

Public interest pay is well below that of lawyers working in law firms. According to 2021 figures collected before pay hikes, the median starting pay was $85,000 for lawyers working in law firms of 50 or fewer attorneys, $127,500 for lawyers working in firms of 51 to 100 attorneys, and $190,000 for lawyers working in the largest firms of more than 700 attorneys.

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