I work more than 12 hour days, and get £12,000 a year to work in criminal defence.

 

I am a 24 year old trainee solicitor working in crime. I get paid £12,000 and work over 12 hours days.

I arrive noun_33418_ccat work at 8am. Phone calls from clients start now and end about 10pm

At 9:30 I have a prison visit. I normally sit around for 1 hour whilst my clientis found.

At 11am I check my mail, usually legal aid forms or certificates around 5 per day. I have to telephone clients who have filled in forms incorrectly (a high proportion of illiterate /vulnerable / elderly clients who don’t understand what the forms are actually asking and a lot of time is spent explaining the client situation to the court).

I typically do some legal research,admin and billing throughout the day. Admin usually means lots of time on hold to, or chasing, the  Legal Aid Agency, the police or the local council.

If I have to go to court, I will finish there at 4:30. When the court lists come out, I have to  check that we are still covered. Inevitably, I find that things have been pulled or moved up at the eleventh hour.

At 5pm I have client and barrister meetings so that my clients don’t have to take time off work.

I leave the office anywhere between 6pm and 9pm. I am on call for 12 hour shifts between 9pm and 9am about four times a month.

I’m 24, living with my parents, earning £12,000. I have a car loan to pay off and have to have a car for my job. I have an LPC loan to pay off which is crippling. I can’t afford day to day living as once I’ve paid the loans and helped out with household expenses there’s £200 left.

I am worried about the cuts, not for my  own struggle, that is essentially a choice, but I wonder how many people they expect to help clients on a pro bono basis? Access to justice is being totally denied.

I would not want my solicitor to say they did not have time for my family

I’m a trainee solicitor specialising in the defence of fraud, white-collar crime and regulatory matters. It is somewhat a fancy title, but I feel the salary certainly does not reflect that (I earn £16,000). Rather despondently, I have to admit that I earned more as a receptionist during my University vacations than I do now, and that was without the qualifications, and the inevitable debts of obtaining a degree and the subsequent Legal Practice Course (LPC).

My day typically begins at 6:30am when I get up to get ready for work. I’m out of the house by 7:30am to make the hour and a half London commute to the office. At the office, I begin following up emails and messages I’ve received over night from clients or counsel. This job is most certainly not a nine to five.

It is then a matter of either hours of considering and analysing prosecution papers, court or prison visits or back-to-back conferences with whoever requires my attention that day. This will usually be counsel, experts, clients or perhaps more often than not their family members. Many people fail to acknowledge that it is not just my client who goes through the legal proceedings but also their friends and relatives. The legal aid agency does not pay for my time to meet with family members (unless they are a potential defence witness) so much of this I do pro bono (“for free”). Why do I do this? If the roles were ever to be reversed I would not want my solicitor to say they did not have time for my family or friends, so I do for them what I would want done for me.

In fact, a lot of what I do is pro bono; before funding is in place or once a case has been closed I still do what I can to help a client. Often, I am all they have to help them through the most trying and daunting time of their life and to turn them away because I do not get paid for it would be unjust.

If I am not in the office I may have to see my client in a prison or a Court hundreds miles from the office. This would take me out of the office all day and be costly in travel. Fortunately, my firm does reimburse me personally for my travel fees but this often leaves them out of pocket. This is because there is a limit on what can be claimed from the legal aid agency.

After a long day at the office, court, prison or wherever I may be, I am lucky if I am home before 8pm. Twice a week I also study my LPC course in the evenings, so on these nights it is more like 10pm. Once home, and when I say home, I mean my parents home. I eat dinner and prepare whatever I need for the following day and sleep.

I am thankful to my parents who tolerate me still living at home. I returned from University with the promise to myself, and them, that “I’ll only be at home for a year”. Three years later and I’m still living with my parents. I had every intention of moving out, but the reality of limited earnings, the high cost of London rent, my LPC and student loan repayments, I had no choice but to reconsider.

When I qualify I am hoping to be on a salary which allows me to live independently… I can only think this is what the myth means when they describe all lawyers as “fat cats lining their pockets”.

I am a 28 year old Paralegal who helps disabled adults and children access community care services

icon_31554I am a 28 year old Paralegal earning £17,000 pa practicing community care law.

My typical day starts at 9.30 and should end at 5.30. In practice, I normally work well into the evening and never take a lunch break. There is no pay for overtime I work. I put in the extra time because the workload is so great and because I care about the clients.

We are a very small and specialist team. Our community care clients are all children, vulnerable adults or carers. Most have significant physical and/or learning disabilities, and they are simply trying to access appropriate support from social services. My day is spent taking instructions from clients, which can be challenging as many of our clients have poor mobility and need to be visited at home or have learning difficulties. We liaise with the local authorities involved in an effort to find mutually amicable solutions to our clients’ problems. But often our clients are simply are not receiving the community care to which they are legally entitled. Our main route to challenging a failure by social services to provide care services is by judicial review. This involves a huge amount of work in the very early stages of the case, and we often have to compile considerable medical, occupational therapy, and psychological evidence. Regularly, after proceedings are issued, the matter is swiftly resolved by the local authority.

I also used to run education cases, but in 2013 my firm lost its education legal help franchise following the changes in legislation for legal aid (the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012). This has resulted in us having to turn away people who need help with education law as we cannot assist under the legal help scheme and they cannot afford to pay privately. Typical cases may involve university students who have suffered discrimination, or disabled children who are not receiving any or appropriate education.

I am not a fat cat lawyer. I have been working in human rights work since 2008 and currently earn £17,000 pa. I have 5 years of higher education under my belt, years of practical experience and specialist knowledge.  I don’t do the work I do for the money. I do the work because I care about my clients. But if my salary were to be cut, it would not be sustainable for me to keep doing this kind of work, no matter how much I love it.  I am 28 years old and have to live with my parents to make ends meet. I have £12,000 student debt.

I am desperately worried about the proposed changes to judicial review funding. The notion that a solicitor will only be paid if permission stage is reached will be devastating. Not getting to permission stage at court is very often a huge success: it means that the local authority has agreed to act without the case reaching a judge.

Volunteer designed by Stephen Borengasser from the Noun Project

I am a 26 year old Paralegal who can’t afford to move out my parents’ home

icon_26189I am a 26 year old Paralegal. I work for a public law team earning £14,060 pa. Public law involves any claim against a public body, such as a local authority or the prison service (these cases are known as “judicial review”).

A typical work day for me can include visiting clients in order to take instructions and provide advice. I often have to travel out to visit the client if they are in custody or are unable to travel to the office due to mental and/or physical disabilities and other complex needs. I need to communicate complex areas of law to often very vulnerable and distressed clients, which  requires a great deal of understanding and means spending additional time with them.

I might then conduct research in diverse areas of law – from Parole Board criteria for the release of life sentence prisoners to a local authority’s policies in relation to Special Guardianship payments. It takes experience and analysis to apply this research to the facts of a client’s case.

I’ll typically spend some time drafting and sending formal letters to the defendant, completing legal aid funding applications, preparing bundles of papers to issue (start) a case in court, and/or drafting instructions to barristers.

The kind of firm I work for, practicing public law, does not generally pay for the large fees law students have to pay to take professional law courses. This is in contrast to many corporate firms which can afford to sponsor prospective trainees. As a result, I am in approximately £28,000 of debt consisting of an £8,000 private bank loan and £20,000 of student debt.  Given my low salary I am not currently in a position to make student loan repayments but I do make bank loan repayments of £139 a month and will do so for the next 8 years. As a result of this I am unable, at the age of 26, to move out of my parents’ home. I simply cannot afford to live independently whilst also maintaining ownership of my car which is a requirement for my role.

The government’s cuts to legal aid will be so damaging because they will leave already vulnerable clients who have already been disproportionately affected by other cuts, and who often have very difficult life circumstances, without good quality legal recourse for legitimate grievances.

House designed by Lil Squid from the Noun Project