EDINBURGH, 23 NOVEMBER 2021
Legal Aid Recruitment Crisis Insights from Leading Scottish Solicitor, Mark Thorley
In a new insights piece, Mark Thorley, Director of a leading Scottish legal aid law firm, discusses the future of legal aid in Scotland, including the current crisis in respect of civil legal aid solicitor recruitment.
It used to be the case that you could place a job advertisement for a civil legal aid solicitor and have multiple applications. Those days are gone now. Recent experience has shown that with an advertisement for a civil legal aid lawyer there was not a single application.
There has been recent assistance provided by the Government to assist legal aid lawyers through the Legal Aid Support for Business and Recovery Fund which provided a grant for solicitors through Covid, together also with support for forty new legal aid trainees and also a 3% increase in fees with a further 5% to come.
However whilst all are welcome they may simply have been a sticking plaster put on a much greater problem. There has been a generation of under-funding in legal aid.
If solicitors’ firms cannot recruit solicitors to undertake the work then the work is not going to get done. Civil legal aid reaches out to a huge area of problems across the wider society from housing issues to issues in separation, to funding personal injury actions and these are but a few areas.
The Scottish Government estimates that 75% of the Scottish population is eligible for legal aid. That is an admirable eligibility percentage but the problem is we need solicitors to be able to do the work.
There is now a generational problem. Solicitors do not want to do legal aid work partly because of the hours that are involved, the bureaucracy of applications and the rate of pay.
There is a current crisis. When you cannot get a single response to a job advertisement it says it all.
For more insights on Recruiting and Retaining Trainees in a Legal Aid Firm, see you can watch Mark Thorley’s interview with Hey Legal on YouTube here. Mark discusses recruiting and retaining trainees, potential remedies to help legal aid firms retain talent and to address the issue of limited numbers of qualified assistants in legal aid work:-
Mark Thorley is a Scottish qualified solicitor and Director of leading Edinburgh legal aid law firm Thorley Stephenson.