Not enough to pay the bills

The road to ruinIf there's one thing more depressing than watching the cricket, it must be costing legal aid work. Like many of my brethren, I gave up doing legal aid work a few years ago, but I do still do the odd agency legal aid work for firms that have not yet 'seen the light'. This morning I received a letter from one such firm, costing the work that I had done for them, at legal aid rates. For nearly three hours worth of work I will receive the princely sum of £114.10, an average hourly rate of about £38, or about a quarter of the average hourly rate in this area for privately funded work. Unfortunately for me, the job involved an hour waiting at court at £27.50 an hour, which brought the average down, although I have never understood the rationale for charging substantially less for travelling and waiting, when a solicitor's hourly overheads are the same no matter what he/she is doing.

Of course, many non-lawyers reading this might think that £38 per hour isn't a bad rate of remuneration, but that is because they have little inkling of just how much solicitors' overheads (premises, staff, equipment, insurance etc.) are, or the fact that a large proportion of a solicitor's average working day simply isn't chargeable.

It doesn't take a genius to work out why firms are giving up legal aid work in their droves - the only surprise to me is that so many are still prepared to do it. Obviously, they must be driven by a sense of public duty rather than the profit motive, but in the end a sense of public duty won't pay the bills.