Few entry-level lawyers see criminal defense as a viable long-term career, according to unsurprising results from a Law Society survey.
Chancery Lane has long warned that the criminal defense industry is on the way out. Data released earlier this year showed the number of lawyers under 35 has fallen.
In a flash poll for young lawyers, the Society asked participants if they thought criminal law was an attractive long-term career. Only 19% of the 139 people who responded to the survey answered “yes”. Almost all of the respondents were between 18 and 35 years old.
“Which other company is still charging 1995 rates?” asked a respondent. Another said: “Poor money. Bad working environment. Actively decried by governments. Limited career opportunities. Crushing debt. No trust in the state not to aggravate the above,” said another.
A lawyer practiced criminal law for six years before switching to commercial law last year. “The reason for my move was simply the poor salary with no prospect of a raise. As a single person the salary was okay, but as a parent it is not viable. After switching to commercial law in a year, I have already doubled the salary I received as a criminal lawyer,” they added.
The Law Society has campaigned to save the criminal defense sector from extinction and is expected to produce a hard-hitting response to the government’s controversial consultation on criminal legal aid, which ends on June 7.
Society President I. Stephanie Boyce said, “The results of our survey are not surprising given that criminal legal aid attorneys have not seen a significant increase in fees in 25 years. The responses from aspiring lawyers underscore the imperative for substantial government investment to protect the future of this crucial but endangered profession.
Ministers tried to persuade the profession to back the government’s proposals, saying it was no small feat to get £135m.
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