Silks warned they face danger of losing out on criminal legal aid

SILKS will have priced themselves out of the criminal legal aid market in 10 years time, according to a leading London criminal solicitor.

The prediction was made by London Criminal Court Solicitors' Association president Tony Edwards at a dinner for the group attended by around 800 criminal lawyers.

He said: “By that stage the majority of barristers will first have served their time as solicitors and so discovered whether advocacy really was for them.”

Edwards was also critical of both the main political parties' law and order policies, singling out home secretary Michael Howard's disclosure proposals and his shadow Jack Straw's paper on noise and nuisance.

“I am not sure which politician's use of the law and order ticket is more terrifying,” he said.

Edwards' attack on barristers' fees coincided with the release by John Taylor MP of a controversial league table revealing the top earning legal aid barristers and solicitors firms.

Legal aid solicitors are united in their claim the table of top 10 unnamed firms is meaningless because it does not identify actual profits.

But the Law Society's head of professional policy Russell Wallman says the figures for counsel show 10 barristers receiving “very high fees” of around £200,000 from the crown courts once overheads are taken into account.

At an open meeting on legal aid, Bar Council chair Peter Goldsmith told Lord Mackay that barristers of under five years' call, who made up around 25 per cent of the Bar, were earning modest sums from legal aid “without which they could not survive”.