Legal aid lawyers dying out partly thanks to challenges facing junior lawyers, reports JLD

updated on 03 December 2014

Legal aid lawyers have been called a "dying breed" after research by the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) found that only 4% of young lawyers are interested in working in legal aid.

A JLD survey published on 1 December also found a number of problems for people trying to enter and build their careers in the legal profession. The significant increase in tuition fees in recent years has created a more serious obstacle to a career in law, and has arguably added more risk to the highly competitive search for training contracts and pupillages. Higher student debt has also led to younger lawyers prioritising short-term earning potential over their long-term careers.

Another issue highlighted by the survey is the low rate of progression onto a training contract among those candidates who take on paralegal work in order to gain work experience and improve their chances while earning.

Sophia Dirir, chair of the JLD, said: "Our research shows the stark reality of the effects of university tuition fee hikes and legal aid cuts on the future of the legal profession and the justice system. The government's cuts will lead to people accused of crimes having no, or inadequate representation. This will ultimately deprive vulnerable members of the public of access to justice."

"Junior lawyers are facing difficulties both financially and in accessing genuine career opportunities in the legal market place. There is evidence of a worrying trend of long-term unpaid work experience, some placements lasting up to two years. I would urge the profession to re-evaluate the situation and not put short-term commercial advantage above the development of future legal talent."