A new survey of solicitors by the Law Society of England and Wales indicates that the profession views the reduction in legal aid availability as a major reason for the decline in access to justice, .
64% of surveyed lawyers said overall access to justice for civil and criminal matters has worsened over the past ten years. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents cited the reduction in the areas covered by legal aid as amongst the biggest barriers to people accessing justice in England and Wales.
“We are hearing from those with first-hand experience of working in the legal sector that the fundamental right to access to justice has become more and more difficult to uphold over the last ten years,” said Law Society president Lubna Shuja.
“Consistent underfunding of the justice system in the ten years since crushing legal aid cuts were introduced in 2013 means that people are all too often not able to get the support they need if they are unable to afford private legal fees. Over the past 10 years there has been a 41% decrease in magistrates’ court representation.”
Lubna Shuja added: “Solicitors’ perspectives on how government policy has weakened the UK’s rule of law are similarly damning. Our research shows that 61% of our members are concerned about the impact recent government policy (over the past 2 years) has had.”
The survey aims to find out about members’ working lives, as well as their perceptions and challenges as they relate to their professional lives, the pro bono work they do and issues that unite the profession.
Research shows there are disparities across branches of the profession and different demographics in terms of workplace satisfaction and career progression.
“We recognise there is still work to be done for all members to feel they can equally enjoy a rewarding career in law,” said Law Society President Lubna Shuja.
“We commend those working in the legal sector for the important work they do, and the solidarity shown in standing up for vitally important tenets of access to justice and the rule of law.”