Bad times for BabyBaristas

Baroness Deech

(With thanks to and acknowledgment of Tim Kevan, author of the wonderful BabyBarista blog at the Guardian, and to Alex Williams, qc of legal cartoonists.)  I wrote on 12 December about the devastating effects that cuts in legal aid will have on litigants and the courts, especially people with family problems.  Lawyers attract little sympathy,  but in fact the cuts in legal aid will have an equally adverse impact on the chances of young lawyers and on diversity at the Bar.  Newly qualified barristers used to rely on a meagre but reliable stream of legal aid if they took up family and criminal law work at the start of their careers.  Now even that will go, for not only is legal aid being removed but the government is also urging mediation on couples.  It is hoped that mediation will remove the need to start litigation, but it is as likely to lead to the parties representing themselves, inequality of arms between husband and wife, and more frustration and unhappiness for the spouses, not to mention judges trying to cope with litigants in person.

Given the hike in tuition fees and the cost of qualifying as a barrister on top of that, if there is no prospect of earning a living doing family and criminal work, then this must be a real deterrent to young people from less well off backgrounds contemplating qualifying as lawyers.  On the one hand the government calls for the professions to be more open to people from every background: on the other it removes the possibilities of making one’s way that used to exist. 

There are thousands of graduates from university law courses every year and thousands undertaking the professional qualifications and then looking for jobs.  The Bar has only about 400 new pupillages a year and several thousand students seeking them.  It makes sense to refine entry onto the professional qualification course by way of an aptitude test and an English language test, so that no-hopers do not waste their money on the fees. There is a dilemma for the profession: lawyers are visiting schools and colleges and encouraging young people to take up law, but at the same time they have to give them a realistic account of the likelihood of actually getting a job.

16 comments for “Bad times for BabyBaristas

  1. Lord Blagger
    27/02/2011 at 5:55 pm

    The Bar has only about 400 new pupillages a year and several thousand students seeking them

    That’s the cause of the high price of legal aid and legal costs to the rest of us.

    Combine that with all the politicians turned MPs and Lords who can’t write a law without loopholes and side effects and you wonder if its not deliberate.

  2. Matthew
    27/02/2011 at 10:37 pm

    The veterinary profession (of which I am a member) has a similar problem – five or six years to qualification at £9000/year tuition fees (plus the need to see practice during vacations rather than getting a job) is going to put a lot of people off applying, particularly those from the social backgrounds already under-represented amongst MsRCVS.

    I’ve known a few people who’ve tried to become lawyers, and it strikes me as a bit odd quite how many places there are on the law vocation courses given quite how few pupillages (and therefore jobs) there are for people completing these courses. As you say, it might make more sense to be more competitive about who gets onto these courses in the first places, rather than have so many people spend so much money on a qualification they will never be able to use.

  3. MilesJSD
    28/02/2011 at 1:19 am

    Same old always-avoided problem with this “earning a living” spin-table:

    for me “a living” is £200 per week not-backed-up by any assets;

    In Plymouth there is now no legal-aid lawyer, and the only one capable of dealing with my (similar £200 per week) neighbour’s urgent legal need charges £100 for the initial hour then £150 per hour, in advance.

    What would the lawyer’s minimum weekly income be ? Around £600 ?

    But that then is categorically three (3) livings !!!

    (Fill in the rest of this inglorious “leading first-world-democracy” account at your leisure: it won’t be possible to do it in any British workplace timeframe).


  4. Lord Blagger
    28/02/2011 at 10:41 am

    As you say, it might make more sense to be more competitive about who gets onto these courses in the first places, rather than have so many people spend so much money on a qualification they will never be able to use.

    Demand is high, supply of pupillages is low.

    The solution is to increase the supply.

    However, that leads to competition between barristers and drives down the price they can charge the client.

    They are rightly being screwed over for the legal aid bill.

    The rest of the legal profession from the judges down need to be screwed over for their absurd costs.

    However they don’t want this, so they restrict the number of people who can apply, creates a shortage, drives up their fees.

    We need some parallel legal structures to avoid the state monopoly

  5. Gareth Howell
    28/02/2011 at 10:48 am

    The noble baroness is also aware no doubt, that there are far too many women taking up the law, and that the Law Society has taken some measures to discourage this?

    • maude elwes
      28/02/2011 at 1:55 pm

      Odd how nobody wants to attack another very appropriate reason for the loss of ‘our’ (the tax payers) legal aid facilities. And that is mass immigration.

      The use of legal aid is disproportional to cases of immigration and family matters in connection to those who have entered the country either legally or not.

      Along with this, the dire consequences of arranged marriages, different attitudes and expectation towards the domestic rights of women, who find themselves living in a country that encourages them to expose and fight against domestic violence, additionally the fathers, uncles and brothers of same women, who remain in the background, but direct the path to take, with threats to their female persons. In the hope the daughter, sister, niece will make a financial killing in the courts in some way, that they can lift on settlement.

      This began some thirty or more years ago. Judges frequently trying desperately to draw attention to it, but ridiculed as too old to understand what was ‘good’ for our country and people. With the British tax payer picking up the bill as their personal rights to Law diminished.

      And now that old chestnut, of the loss to diversity will be outrageous. Well, what about the loss to the indigenous people who no longer will be able to claim they live in a civilized community. That Law is something of the past? How dare those who brought this about to now pretend the major loss will be of those other than ourselves in this society.

      • Bagpuss
        28/02/2011 at 4:47 pm

        Can you back up your assertion that legal aid is used disproportionately in relation to immigration cases and family cases concerning immigrants?
        Immigration is certainly one area of law which is covered by legal aid for some – are you saying that refugees should not be entitled to help? Or that women who are the victims of forced marraige or of domestic violence (which is NOT a problem limited to immigrants, by the way) should not have access to justice?

      • MilesJSD
        28/02/2011 at 6:22 pm

        Big Hidden Problems, Issues, Complexities, including seceral potential-casus-belli I’d not be surprised –

        over various and succesive or randomly-flitting strata, of ‘marketplace-morality’ and thereunder of ‘popular-“ethics”‘, and of “Plymouth legal-fees at £150 an hour being dirt-cheap in contrast to London’s legal-fees which tend to start at £1000 an hour for such cases”:
        ((( and this poor old frail lady’s case is an Immigration one, wherein her first three year leave to remain was only granted by the Home Office after the Immigration Tribunal had had to recommend it under European Human Rights and Asylum law (section 8 or suchlike) in 2008;

        but on applying for renewal
        (“not before xxDec2010 but before the expiry date 30days later xxJan 2011” for the further three years residence mandatory before she can apply for British citizenship)
        on the wrong form, given her and legal-aided through to submission by the authorised solicitor firm;

        which form the UKBA/HomeOffice (having kept it hiddenly-pending until the lady’s current leave had expired by two weeks) advised her it was “the wrong form” (HPDL ‘no charge’ when it should have been FLR(O)’charge £500 up front’) before failing the application and sending it all back to the lady with advice to make a fresh submission upon the correct form;

        (because the original authorised solicitor-firm has now closed-down under bigger and the-new-government issues anyway)
        the only immigration-qualified lawyer
        (and a string of other authorities and involved people, such as Doctors (two), Landlord (one ex-Local Govt Council-Housing now Association which, incidentally at the end of today Monday is the only key-authority to have so far provided the information now required by the Solicitor, whose deadline for getting the (re- but now new-) application into the Home Office, is this Thursday 04 Jan), banks, income-sources, friends and relatives, and myself her only carer (and at that only voluntary, unpaid and part-trained)

        have in effect only ten days to get all this evidence and support togather and in-the-mail to the Home Office.

        But her case is quite petty in relation to another hugely-hidden Issue namely that ‘enablement-must-precede-empowerment’ and vice versa ’empowerment must be preceded by enablement’ – and at all levels from highest to lowest, and vice versa.

        Where and how on Earth can such vital democratic-governance matters be communicated ?

        and where in less than 250 words ?

        (Thank you, Maude, for joining the issue; and I abjectly apologise if I have been in any degree in-appropriate here).


    • maude elwes
      01/03/2011 at 3:58 pm

      @ Bagpuss:

      First, how is it I knew that this would bring a spitting match at me for having the audacity, as an English born citizen, to raise the question of mass immigration to this island. Not in all these last sixty years, in this Democracy, have the people of this country been asked if they approve of this practice.

      Add to that, the frequently hidden facts of how many of the population, including said foreign born, disagree with the extreme measures, taken by the last government in particular, to drastically change the ethnic and cultural make up of these said islands.

      Now lets get down to your detail of cost and figures.

      As the true cost of mass immigration is concealed, by various means, it is hard to get clear facts, unless you have access to secret computers within government. However, for arguments sake, we’ll assume Carl.H. figures are correct. Which, of course, they are sure to be a gross under estimate, as immigration legal aid costs do not stop at simply cases dealing with the rights, or not, of entering the country. Funny how when real figures are exposed, people in office, tell us they didn’t know the full facts and their estimation was built on numbers they were given at the time.

      First, your claim is legal Aid costs the tax payer, (Carl.H. url) a total of £2 billion. The Immigration section of that being, (Carl.H.) £68 million. He omits which part of the immigration costs this represents. And we know it isn’t covering the huge additional costs associated with the full contingent of legal requirements that immigration entails. These figures must be incorrect, as some individual cases alone run into millions of pounds, such as the torture, extradition, etc., and so on. So £68 million is immediately seen as falling on the side of underestimate rather than over estimate.

      That aside, what is the current figures on population in the UK? A rough estimate is, 62 million people. And the current figures on immigrants from between 1991 to 2001 alone, is 4.9 million. Or, 8.3% of the population. Which Migrationwatch disputes as a grossly underestimated.

      This means that for the entire legal aid cases in the UK, at a cost to the British tax payer, is £2 billion, which covers the entire population of 62 million, including, criminal, civil and all other legal aid cases, which are diverse and tremendous in their breadth and depth.

      Why should this be paid from the British citizens Legal Aid fund? The Legal Aid fund should be put aside for our existing residents, who are unable to afford such service and which is a necessity to our civilization as a people. Why should our poor be forced to lose their right to law because governments have decided to import vast amounts of individuals to our shores, whom we clearly cannot afford, without considerably lowering the standard of living of our entire population. Except, of course, to the very wealthy, who enjoy the cheap labour.

      Why are the total costs of immigrants, including their legal requirements, not paid from the Foreign Aid budget, or, by the Corporations who claim their need for them as workers? This money is already given by the tax payer to assist the poor nations of the world? Is it too much to expect that governments think ahead when making drastic policies regarding our welfare and the rights of the British tax payer. There should be a separate fund dealing with all forms of immigration. Including the cost of, prisons, education, medicine, hospital places, financial support, housing, translation and so on. It has no place being taken from the social funds designated for the British people as a support system in times of difficulty in their lives.

      That way, once the largess of our altruistic governments runs out, they will have to consider what they will use to continue with these practices in the future. And who will foot the bill? And then ask if the tax payer will agree to their social funds being used in this manner, knowing it will reduce their own standard of living and alter their way of life in unpalatable ways.

      It’s time we all began to think about what we are expecting from this immigration policy, taken without our consent, and what it means to our way of life and communities. There is no room left to pretend it will not change the fundamental concept of life in the UK.

      Excluding the definition of the practice is akin to leaving out part of the minutes of a board meeting. Always carried out in order to hide the full impact of the Chair’s actions.

      • Carl.H
        02/03/2011 at 4:20 pm


        I was only trying to provide information.

        Later figures 2010:
        The total cost of legal aid for immigration and asylum cases in 2009/10 was £90 million.

        £2.2 billion budget for Legal Aid.

        • maude elwes
          02/03/2011 at 5:22 pm


          Thanks Carl.H. really appreciate those numbers.

          It doesn’t change the facts, though. And that is, the money is being siphoned off of the Legal Aid pot in order to give rights to those entering the UK from abroad, whilst reducing rights, and the cover for those rights to uphold them, from the British people who fund this social requirement. When instead, this money should have be raised from a separate and open source to let the voter know what government was up to. And to allow the existing residents to keep what is rightfully theirs. The poor box has been raided leaving the people of this country, who are in need of that poor box, stranded.

          Robbery is what it is.

          • MilesJSD
            02/03/2011 at 10:41 pm

            “Robbery is what it is”: yes, Maude;

            however, it is robbery by our own already-bloated rich and empowered-ful governing-classes and individual-captains-of-industry;

            not by the immigrants or other legal-aid needy;

            and remember, it is not the frail little old lady who gets given £150 an houjr whatever, it is an already £1000 per week middle-class lawyer, part of the British Establishment no less.


        • Carl.H
          03/03/2011 at 4:38 pm

          Let’s enter the debate here not on immigration but on the figures I gave because something is not quite right.

          The ILPA figure of £68m for 2007/8 was a projection and infact the year preceding 2005/6 the actual figure was £102m.

          We know that immigration/asylum since 2005/6 has increased dramatically, I think a 22% jump in one year alone was quoted somwhere.
          So we know we have quite an increase and yet Mr.Kenneth Clarke is quoting in 2010 a figure of £90m legal aid for immigration/asylum cases.

          Government cuts of £600m to the £2.2b legal aid system is approximately 25%.

          In the Commons Jonathan Djanogly (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (HM Courts Service and Legal Aid), stated on 23 November 2010 that legal Aid for immigration was infact £85m which is £5 lower than Mr. Clarke stated.

          He went on to state:

          “Yes, I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we are consulting on removing all immigration matters from the scope of legal aid, other than for those in immigration detention. That means removing matters such as varying leave to remain-for example, if a foreign student wants to change their visa to get permission to work instead, or, indeed, to stay here for longer. Such cases will no longer be at the taxpayer’s expense.”

          In 2002 Lord Falconer stated the cost of collapsed trials to the taxpayer was running at £41m a year. This was nearly 10 years ago and I expect to have increased substantially especially in the light of some major trial collapses in revent years. Can we expect to see along with cuts the Government ensuring the CPS has a clear case before prosecuting. Another £10m+ is paid out annually in compensation to wrongful conviction recipients but is not the only costs. See:

          Are we also likely to see less of these type cases bought :

          • Maude Elwes
            03/03/2011 at 7:37 pm

            @milesjsd: Where have I written, that the immigrant is at fault?

            The fault lies with the duplicity of successive governments concealing the true facts of their motives for creating this situation

            However, the British tax payer is not in the position financially to feed the world and never was in that position. And misusing social funds from UK residents, who paid their entire working lives in trust they would be cared for by doing so, then finding, in their hour of need, it no longer exists, is fraud. They should not have to foot the bill for deliberate government profligacy.

            There should be redress brought by the courts, on behalf of the people, against a government who willfully acts contra to the interests of the nation in these matters. Then, those responsible having to forfeit their assets, liquid and equity, to the said public purse. Leaving those culpable to experience the loss of their safety net in the same way the nation has to endure.

            Want to bet if such a law existed we would see substantial change from profligacy to thrift overnight.

          • Maude Elwes
            03/03/2011 at 8:21 pm


            Additionally it has been released, quietly, that as we write, Dr Cable is or has negotiated with the Indian government to receive thousands more immigrants to fill IT jobs, etc., here in the UK, rather than said jobs being made available to unemployed UK residents.


            Gasp, shock horror! Now I, for one, would like know why Dr Cable and Mr Hague feel the Indian population are more in need of these jobs than British residents who are currently in the process of being thrown onto the scrap heap. Expecting to soon be found scavenging on dumps for food, as the welfare or benefit of the enormous sum of £65 a week is to be reduced or removed from them as soon as possible.

            Why is it these people despise the British working class so much? Our young people have no employment when leaving university or school, and yet, these individuals still feel they should import from the developing world, where one can only assume, they are desperately needed there.

            How much is it they are paying the Indian government officials in foreign Aid? And what is the Indian government spending our tax payers money on? Last time I read it was Nuclear proliferation and space projects.


            Can anyone explain to me why the British tax payer should be footing the bill for India’s profligate government, as well as our own? Whilst leaving our own sick, poor, elderly and disabled to barely be able to fend for themselves?

            Don’t they see this as exploitation of the very worst kind?

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