Friday, 22 March 2013

Want To Be A Criminal Barrister? You Must Be Joking.

Saw an article in one of the papers recently that pointed out more students than ever have signed up to become baristers. An all-time high, apparently. Unless they all want to do highly paid corporate/ commercial work one can only assume that research isn't their strong point.

The Bar has been under seige for decades by successive governments. Legal Aid in crime has been dessimated and recent changes have meant that family lawyers are no longer on the gravy train to the extent that they were. I remember getting paid almost 10 times less for trials in front of a jury where my client's liberty was at stake whilst my newly-qualified family lawyer colleagues were raking it in for doing much less time on their feet. Bitter? Oh yes.

 But back to the current situation. More and more solicitors are qualifying as Higher Court Advocates, the CPS is doing a lot of Crown Court work themselves (cheaper than employing a barrister) and if that wasn't enough the Government is now moving to fixed fees for cases involving criminal legal aid - that's most of them.

As one junior counsel said recently:

"Barristers' chambers will be raided, from the bottom up. Those not recruited will find that practice at the independent bar is uneconomic, and will leave (or join the CPS). Chambers will implode – probably in a barrage of litigation – and the profession of criminal advocacy will have divided into a US-style system of [district attorney] prosecutors and public defenders."

I could have added '..and that's exactly want the politicians want. Prosecuted and defended by the State.'

He's wrong about the CPS taking on the fleeing hordes though - they're not recruiting.

So times are tougher than ever at the Bar, particularly if Crime is your thing. If you're one of the hundreds of law students who are about to embark on the Bar Course I can't offer you any crumbs of comfort. You're unlikely to make it at all in your chosen career and even if you do you're likely to be portrayed by politicians from all sides as a Ferrari-driving, champagne-swigging yuppie at the same time as you're struggling to pay the rent.

Time to re-think your career choices.

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