Government's proposed reform of legal aid - Justice Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple (AJ 03)

The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple is pleased to respond to the recent Justice Select Committee's inquiry on Access to Justice and Sentencing Proposals. This memorandum is submitted by the Sub-Treasurer, Patrick Maddams, the Inn's principal administrative officer.

This submission is intended to supplement other submissions from the Bar. It focuses on issues where we feel that we can offer additional insight and analysis, in particular on the following questions:

"What impact will the proposed changes have on the number and quality of practitioners, in all areas of law, who offer services funded by legal aid?; and

"What are the implications of the Government's proposals?"


1.  The Inner Temple is one of the four Inns of Court. As holders of the exclusive right to call candidates to the Bar of England and Wales, the Inns continue to play an essential role in the recruitment of prospective barristers. In addition, we offer substantial scholarships to train for the Bar and provide education and training - notably in advocacy - to students, pupils, new and established practitioners.

2.  The Inner Temple has a long history of encouraging legal debate. As part of this role and the Inn's prominence as a place for dialogue on issues of concern to the profession, the Inn runs a series of seminars on topical issues. This includes an upcoming seminar in February 2011 on the future of legal education.

3.  The Inn has over 8,000 qualified members, including judges, barristers (practising and non-practising) and pupils. Each year, roughly 450 students apply to the Inn with the intention of training for the Bar.


4.  Access to justice underpins the rule of law. As basic access to justice is restricted, the rule of law is consequently diminished. The outlined cuts to legal aid will amount to more of the most vulnerable members in our society having less opportunity to access quality legal advice and advocacy when they are most in need. In addition to crime and family, these include those involved in debt; immigration; employment; housing and welfare cases.

5.  Ultimately, the knock-on effects of legal aid cuts will be a reduction in the number of barristers working in these fields, large regional areas without any publicly-funded advocates, a reduction in the number of pupillages available and fewer people from under-represented backgrounds aspiring to work in publicly-funded areas of law. This could lead not only to a constriction in exclusively publicly-funded barristers but to their extinction at the junior end. Consequently, in the longer-term, there will be fewer senior specialist barristers in these fields and subsequently fewer judges from these practice areas.

6.  Barristers who work in publicly-funded practice share a strong belief in the rule of law and importance of high-quality advocacy and advice. They commit themselves to these areas, despite the already low levels of remuneration, due to its importance as public service. As barristers move their practices away from this work, the likelihood of less qualified representation and the possibility of miscarriages of justice increases.

7.  The Inner Temple has worked hard to encourage diversity and social mobility in the profession. These cuts will result in students from under-represented backgrounds being discouraged from entering legal professions. As the Bar constricts, so too will the number at its junior-end and the number of pupillages available. The best and brightest graduates will no doubt look to professions where their talents are properly recognised.


8.  The Bar of England and Wales has a strong reputation nationally and internationally for the quality of its legal advice and advocacy as well as cost-effectiveness. Under the Bar Code of Conduct, the cab rank rule ensures that barristers in independent practice must accept instructions provided that they are available and they are offered a "proper fee". The Bar has long provided its specialist services to the public irrespective of need.

9.  As of December 2009, there were 12,241 self-employed barristers. In addition, there were 3,029 employed "in-house" barristers and 462 pupil barristers in their "first six". Of self-employed barristers, only 11% (1,318) were senior professionals appointed Queens Counsel (QC)[1].

10.  It has been estimated that approximately 50% of self-employed barristers undertake publicly-funded work in criminal defence or prosecution, family, immigration or administrative work. This would be supported by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA)'s estimated 5,000 members[2] in addition to those in the Family Law Bar Association and other associated Specialist Bar Associations. Legal aid cuts will therefore affect over 6,000 self-employed barristers, the majority of which are junior barristers.

11.  Recent research conducted by the Inn has shown that fewer qualified barristers are finding a lasting career in the profession. The progression from pupillage to tenancy is increasingly tenuous as publicly-funded work is reduced and funding is squeezed. While nearly 70% of Inner Temple pupils in 2005-06 are currently practising at the Bar, less than 40% of those from 2007-08 are doing so. The trend is clear that fewer pupils in practices dominated by legal-aid work are taken on for tenancy in Chambers or wish to continue. In addition, junior barristers are moving their practices away from publicly-funded work as it is not sustainable financially.

12.  The criminal and family Bar have been two of the most competitive for entry, due to entrants' strong belief in both areas. This seems to be particularly true for those entrants from non-traditional backgrounds that are under-represented in the legal professions. Legal aid cuts will have a destructive effect on our work to encourage access to and diversity in the legal professions.


13.  The Inner Temple is working hard to raise the aspirations of young people and provide them with encouragement and support in order to progress into the legal professions. From working with schools on the pioneering Schools Project to connecting with external organisations to promote legal education, the Inn is working to ensure that the legal professions are well placed to flourish by being more representative of society as a whole. Some initiatives we have undertaken include:

The Inner Temple Schools Project launched in 2008 aims to ensure that school students, regardless of their background, are aware of the opportunities available to them at the modern Bar and to raise aspirations towards the professions. The project challenges stereotypes about professional careers, provides state school students with information about the legal system of England and Wales and promotes social mobility at the Bar. Run in conjunction with Pathways to Law and the National Education Trust, the project was recently highlighted in the Advisory Panel for Judicial Diversity's final report.

In addition to attending over twenty law fairs, in the 2009-10 academic year the Inner Temple reached 1600 university students from every institution offering a qualifying law degree in England and Wales. The Inn now runs dozens of events a year to give university students information they require to make informed decision on legal careers.

In addition, the Inn has an established history of supporting its students and junior members financially.

In 2011, the Inn intends to make awards to a total value of £1,260,000. Overall, the Inns of Court will provide approximately £4,500,000. The majority of these scholarships are for the Bar Professional Training Course. The Inner Temple welcomes applicants from all backgrounds for its awards.

14.  Of students pursuing the Bar course in 2006, 77% stated that they intend to practise at the self-employed Bar. 42% of respondents stated that they wished to work in criminal practice, 34% indicated civil and 29% indicated family. However, 31% of students noted that they had debts over £20,000[3]. With no hope of recovering this from publicly-funded work, aspirations to work in these areas will no doubt plummet.

15.  In addition, a lower proportion of ethnic minority respondents indicated that they wished to practise at the self-employed Bar or in legally-aided criminal and family practices due to financial instability. This is likely to further widen under the legal aid cuts regime.

16.  As the lifeblood of the profession, we are particularly mindful of the junior Bar and prospective entrants. Reduction in the number of pupillages in publicly-funded practices will have the unintended consequence of further discouraging non-traditional students from entering the legal professions. This will negatively impact on the profession's work in this area and the Government's own focus on social mobility and access to the professions.


17.  The Bar will respond to the cuts in legal aid by continuing its public service role and doing all that it can in the form of pro-bono work. The Inner Temple supports the Bar Pro-Bono Unit, which provides advice, representation and help at mediation in all legal areas, and the Free Representation Unit, which provides legal advice, case preparation and advocacy in tribunals - employment, social security and criminal injury cases - for those who are not otherwise able to obtain legal support. These organisations and others, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, will be increasing called upon by the public at every level of legal proceedings.

18.  In order to minimise the adverse impact of these cuts on the profession, the Bar has looked towards the future and implemented an ambitious modernisation agenda. This includes encouraging direct public access in certain areas, the ability to form partnerships with other barristers and alternative business structures. Models for alternative business structures include procurement companies ("ProcureCos"), a commercial face of Chambers that enable them to bid directly for contacts from public bodies and corporations. Others include Legal Disciplinary Partnerships, allowing barristers to work in entities with solicitors and accountants as a legal "one stop shop". These reforms will ensure that the Bar is well placed to respond to the needs of society in an increasingly challenging economic climate.

19.  With the restructuring of the Legal Services Commission as an executive non-departmental public body, we would call on the Justice Select Committee to carefully consider the importance of the bidding process for legal-aid contracts in the current climate. The Bar, with its low overhead costs and high-value specialist expertise, has been shown to be excellent value for money. The Bar will continue to embrace its fundamental professional ethos of working in the public interest as long as it given a fair and equitable opportunity to do so.

December 2010

1   Bar Council Statistics (2010): Back

2   Mendelle QC, Paul and Christopher Kinch QC (2010): The Future for the Publicly-Funded Criminal Bar: Back

3   Bar Council (2006). BVC Student Survey on Aspirations for Practice at the Bar. ERS Market Research. London.  Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 4 April 2011