I am a 24 year old paralegal. I am responsible for assisting clients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (also known as clients who have been “sectioned”) and assist them in applying for their discharge from hospital. I represent them at Tribunal hearings and other various types of hearings/meetings.
My clients are typically some of the most vulnerable members of society and they will often see me as being able to give them extra support, as a social worker would. They ask me for assistance with a variety of things which I simply cannot assist with due to limits of legal aid funding.
My day usually starts at around 8.30 but no later than 9.00. A typical day will involve managing a number of cases. I often spend time out of the office taking instructions from the client as well as reading reports, liaising with various professionals and representing clients at hearings. I usually finish my day at about 6.00pm.
My poor salary of £14,000 pa was described to me as “competitive” when it is effectively just minimum wage. I am baffled by my poor salary given the work that I do. I live in one of the UK’s most expensive towns and pay for my own rent and bills. My parents cannot afford to support me so I live from pay packet to pay packet, often worrying about money. I have a £2,000 overdraft from university that I have been unable to repay due to having no disposable income after having paid living expenses.
Furthermore, I had to take out a £10,000 loan to cover the cost of the Legal Practice Course and the 5 year repayment plan is due to start this summer. This will cost me over £200 per month and will leave me with hardly any money to live on. Consequently I am scared as to how I am going to survive.
The cuts to legal aid worry me as they are putting a career in legal aid out of the reach of more and more talented individuals.