LEGAL AID CUTS – A PRIVATE LAW FIRM’S VIEW
At Forrest Williams, we do not do any Legal Aid work. We never have since our firm was established in 2009.
It may be easy to imagine, therefore, that we are unaffected by or interested in the Legal Aid cuts that are devastating the legal field.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
We stand in support of our colleagues – solicitors and barristers, not to mention the numerous paralegals, legal executives, and support staff who allow solicitors and barristers to perform their roles – and wanted to do so openly.
We have the greatest respect for our colleagues who dedicate their careers to Legal Aid practices, often helping the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our communities.
Legal Aid is, in theory, a remarkable concept – that you could be accused of any crime and receive expert advice free of charge is really nothing short of a miracle. That professionals would be happy to work hard for clients who never directly pay them a penny for their services has to be a reflection of the commitment these professionals have to enabling access to justice for all.
We believe that those unable to fund their own legal cases should have access to Legal Aid.
We believe that our colleagues who work with Legal Aid, should receive remuneration that reflects the time and effort they put into their work.
We do, however, know that there is an element of apathy amongst some people within the profession, an expectation that clients will continue to instruct them and Legal Aid will continue to be granted. These individuals are damaging our profession as a whole. These individuals who are ‘going through the motions’ and have long since lost the fire in their bellies to fight for clients are making our whole field of expertise appear less valuable.
We know about these individuals because many of our clients have instructed elsewhere prior to finding, and instructing, us. We hear horror stories of solicitors and barristers who attend Court unprepared, never bother to introduce themselves to the client, and fail to keep anxious clients updated.
These individuals are one of the reasons why the public often has a negative, unsympathetic opinion of solicitors and barristers.
And, in the fight for Legal Aid and access to justice for all, the public are key.
While we support the Legal Aid strike and stand in support of our colleagues, ultimately the public sympathy must be with the action for it to truly be successful.
How do we get public support?
We have to change the perception of lawyers, and we do that one step at a time. Every single person in the field carries the weight of this responsibility on their shoulders every single time they speak to a client. We have to listen. We have to care.
We have to show that we are not fat cat lawyers fighting over 8%, but real people who are fighting to preserve the access to justice for all.
This is our fight.
And we stand shoulder to shoulder with our Legal Aid colleagues to ensure that we #saveukjustice