I got a taxi back home from Chambers tonight. The driver asked what I did for a living so I explained I am a barrister’s clerk. What follows is our conversation as best as I can recall it.
I saw on the telly they’re on strike because of cuts.
That’s right they have had 40% cuts since 1997 and Government wants to cut their fees again.
They shouldn’t keep putting their fees up.
No, it doesn’t work like that Government fixes the rates they are paid.
So how much does a barrister earn a week.
Well a legal aid criminal barrister on average according to Government grosses just over a grand a week.
Wait, that can’t be right I can earn more than that.
Oh there’s more, from that they have to pay VAT, running costs, expenses, income tax etc. They are lucky to take home half that figure. Most solicitors firms doing crime have profit margins of 6-10% the cuts for them are 15% they will all be out of business in weeks.
But I thought all lawyers were rolling in it.
Some earn very well out of criminal law but they are the very best, they have worked for years to hone their skills so they do the biggest most complex cases. The big money is in company, commercial and tax law those boys can earn mega bucks.
The country is in a right state so I suppose we all have to take a knock but I never thought barristers earned so little.
Well the cuts are a joke really. The Government has cut funding from the courts, probation and the CPS for years. It means that cases often go on for far longer than needed and what is really needed is a big shake up of the system.
Well why doesn’t the Government do that?
Because it requires investment. The will have to put money in in the short term to save costs in the long term.
The whole thing is mad. Why do barristers and solicitors do it if they earn so little?
And why do they do it? It isn’t for the money. They do it because they all know that what they do is the right thing. That they speak for those without a voice. They ensure that the state is kept in check and does not abuse it’s powers. If you don’t think that this is a problem you only have to watch the news tonight.
I asked the taxi driver if he was to have a crash tonight and someone died as a result would he want to be represented by an experienced team of lawyers who would fight his case or the cheapest possible option that could be found.
See if you can guess what his answer was.