About the legal aid campaign
Legal aid is funding from the Government to pay for a lawyer to provide you with advice and representation if you can’t afford to pay privately. The Government stopped giving legal aid for lots of types of cases in April 2013. For example, you can no longer get public funding to pay for advice about benefits or employment. Read more here.
Now the Government wants to make it even harder to get legal aid in other areas:
- It has just cut legal aid for lots of types of cases that are important to people in prison, like when they need help to rehabilitate.
- In 2014 the Government will go ahead with cuts that will stop migrants getting free legal advice by introducing a “residence test”.
- The Government is also planning to make it harder for you to get free help if you want to stop the Government or other public bodies acting illegally (“judicial review” cases).
- The cuts will reduce the amount of money paid to lawyers that defend you if you are accused of a crime. This will make it harder for lawyers who spend a lot of time on cases to do a good job and as a result many criminal firms may close.
For a summary of the cuts as they currently stand, see here.
The Government says that lawyers are “fat cats” and that legal aid is too expensive. Read our mythbuster to combat this and other common misconceptions about legal aid here.
About this blog
This blog is run by Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL), a group of students, paralegals, trainee solicitors, pupil barristers and qualified junior lawyers who are committed to practising publicly funded areas of law in England and Wales. See our website here.
Working for people that need help is a privilege and we are lucky to do it. We hope this blog can show our motivation in seeking a career in legal aid is to do just that: to help people in a time of crisis. Simply put, if we were motivated by money we would be in another job.
The cuts to legal aid will have a devastating impact on access to justice for vulnerable people. Good lawyers won’t stay in business if these cuts go ahead. This means that people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer will be less able to find a lawyer who can provide them with advice and representation.
We are worried that only rich students will be able to afford to pursue a career in legal aid because it will pay so little. This will make the legal aid profession less diverse and will mean that future legal aid lawyers will have little or no personal experience akin to their clients’ lives. Read YLAL’s report about the barriers that already exist for people wanting to get into legal aid and the impact the cuts will have on social mobility in the profession.
The Government should stop targeting cuts that affect the most vulnerable people who have the most to lose. Everyone should be able to get first class justice. At YLAL we believe that good lawyers should be valued just like good nurses, firefighters and other public servants.
Follow us on Twitter: @YLALawyers or facebook.
We need your help to say you think these cuts are wrong. Please tell your MP this is one more public service we need to save. To find out how, see here.
If you would like to contact YLAL about this blog, please submit your comments below.