Following on from my post yesterday, it occurs to me that if the current trend continues, there will eventually be no legal aid solicitors left in private practice. Those unable to afford private legal fees will then have no alternative but to use the Law Centres and legal charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Shelter. In many parts of the country, the ‘legal aid deserts’, this is already a reality,
Although I have the greatest admiration for Law Centres and the legal charities, the fact is that there will be different lawyers acting for the rich and for the poor. Inevitably the solicitors and caseworkers working for the law centres and legal charities will be paid less than those in private practice, and this will mean that most of the highflyers will be snapped up by the city firms and other large private practices.
With all its faults, under the old system, at least those eligible for legal aid could chose almost any solicitors firm, and the same solicitor could have a private fee paying and a legal aid caseload (and many did). Now a two tier system is developing. Although the solicitors in the ‘social’ sector may be (and probably will be) very good, I am unhappy about the idea of there being a divide in this way.
It is another symptom of the widening rift between those who can afford to pay for private services (schooling, health care, etc) and those who cannot. It is a very worrying trend.
It is ironic that this has come to pass under a labour government.