The Law Society has spoken out against Barristers being paid more than their solicitor counterparts for advocacy in family legal aid cases, even though they perform the same role. The Law Society is supporting moves by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) towards harmonisation between fees paid to solicitors and barristers for the same work.
Law Society president Paul Marsh said: "the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) claims to support harmonisation in principle, but argues against it in practice. That is shameless self-interest. We agree that any new scheme should reflect differing degrees of complexity of hearings, but the suggestion that solicitors only perform more simple advocacy whilst barristers only perform more complex work is untenable."
"Barristers have lower overheads than solicitors because they are a referral profession. Yet barristers are still generally paid more in absolute terms. Their profit on those fees is much greater than the solicitor's profit. This will remain the case even after harmonisation."
"Fees for the same service should be the same whoever supplies it", Mr Marsh added.
Speasking about the issue last month, Lucy Theis QC, Chair of the Family Law Bar Association, said: "The proposed cuts will not only reduce the number of practitioners who are willing to undertake this important public service but also discourage those wanting to specialise in this area.
"The Family Law Bar Association is already seeing members withdrawing from publicly funded work; junior members of the profession are finding that they can't afford to continue doing such work and senior members are not being replaced. If this trend continues - and it will be exacerbated by the Government's proposals - the consequence will be the loss of effective experienced advocates to those who need them most. This will in turn impact on the family judiciary who are often appointed from those who have experience in conducting these cases.
"The family courts are already under pressure. These proposals will result in the reduced availability of publicly funded advocates."