Undernourished Feline?

The public misconceptions about how much “Fat Cat Legal Aid Lawyers” get paid, has been a feature of the media war over the “transformation of Legal Aid”.

For some reason £300 per hour has become trapped in some people’s imagination. We have compared this with the basic solicitor preparation rate, in Magistrates Court cases, of £49.70. This is one figure, from many, the range being £46.90 – £80.

In any event hourly rates are almost non-existent in Legal Aid these days, having been replaced, by Government, with more “cost-effective” standard and graduated fees. We did a quick post on this on “Save UK Justice Day” and have been asked by a couple of people to explain further.


Some of these fixed fees are relatively simple; Police Station advice in a conclude investigation “rakes in” a fee ranging from £144 in Hartlepool to £301 at Heathrow. Others, the Crown Court Litigators fee, for instance, are fearfully complicated. I am now probably one of a tiny number of people who could undertake a longhand computation of a CCLF, rather than relying upon the online calculator. It should be stressed that none of these fees have been introduced at the behest of lawyers rather, more often that not, against their wishes.

The first thing to say therefore is that whilst certainly £300 per hour is wildly inaccurate it is more complicated than simply counter posing and alternative hourly rate of, say, £58.41.

I choose £58.41 deliberately, this is the notional hourly rate for a non-London Solicitor in a Care case i.e. Court proceedings where the Local Authority are seeking orders in relation to children. Important stuff then, involving the protection of children and the rights of parents. This is part of roughly the one third of Family cases which remain within the scope of Legal Aid following the reductions made in April this year.

In the bulk of such cases the Solicitor will receive a “graduated fee” for the case. There are 40 of these, which are differentiated by region, the people represented and the Court in which it concludes. You get least for representing, say, a Grandparent in a northern County Court – £798 – and most for assisting both parents in a southern High Court – £4,832. Like in the Police Station how much time and work this actually took is usually immaterial – you get the appropriate fee regardless. If however the case involves an exceptional amount of time your final bill can be calculated on the basis of £58.41 per hour (£61.38 in London). So even on exceptional cases a Solicitor will get roughly 20% of the fees imagined in the public consciousness.

The other reason I have chosen these fees is to demonstrate how Legal Aid spending in this area is “spiraling out of control”. Lets take that lowest grad fee mentioned above. Intuitively you would imagine that to be a much-inflated version of an earlier figure would you not?

In October 2007 it was £986

In May ‘11 this dropped to £887

Today it is £798 with a further 10% cut hanging over its head.

Welcome to the day-to-day reality of Public Law Childcare work.

About Author: SP

One comment on “Undernourished Feline?

  • £300 per hour just MOJ (and their pet lackeys) miss information.

    As previously posted for Civil (non family) the hourly rate is £59.40). The MOJ though the Court Service, post guideline hourly rates for solicitors (last increased in 2010), only Grade A solicitors (8 years plus experience post qualification) for two small areas of London exceed the £300 a hour mark, with the rest of the country and lower grades of fee earner well below the £300 mark) (and you can guess where the firms are that the MOJ gets its outside legal advice from are based).

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