We saw a familiar face in The Messenger last week, as Louise Straw, one of our Managing Partners spoke about the fall in the number of criminal defence solicitors entering the industry.
New data revealed by the Law Society has warned that criminal defence lawyers in England and Wales could become extinct within the next decade if the issue isn’t addressed.
At present, criminal defence solicitors are on average older than those specialising in other areas of the law industry.
And experts believe that thanks to a fall in the legal aid budget, fewer law students are opting to study advanced criminal law.
Louise Straw said: “The majority of criminal law firms have contracted over the past few years, mainly because of the cuts to the legal aid budget. At one time we had 140 staff, now we are down to 39.
“We are finding more frequently that the cuts to legal aid are forcing clients to look elsewhere for money and are turning to their parents or other family members to pay their legal costs. It’s sad to think that in the future, criminal law will be practised by a very small group of practitioners on very low rates of pay.”
“It is very difficult for criminal law firms to offer Training Contracts as we are unable to offer training seats in other areas of the law. Neither can we compete with the larger firms who pay for their Trainees’ LPC courses and then offer starting salaries of £40,000 for newly qualified solicitors.”
Jackie Panter, the Associate Head of the Manchester Law School at MMU added: “Students select three options, but over the past five years we have seen a marked decline in those students opting to study advanced criminal law. Nowadays, students are very astute and look to maximise their prospects of gaining a Training Contract and therefore choose areas of the law where there are likely to be more opportunities.”
You can read The Messenger article in full here