Australian lawyers have come under attack from the country’s opposition party over claims that high fees are preventing people from accessing the justice system.
At a dinner to recognise community and legal services activism, shadow federal attorney-general Nicola Roxon accused the legal industry of impinging the public’s access to the justice system by demanding excessive salaries.
Roxon said that while she did not want to participate in “lawyer-bashing”, the cost of accessing legal advice had become a huge stumbling block to the public, which could be easily fixed by lawyers taking a pay cut.
“When some lawyers earn more in a few hours than a huge proportion of the population could in weeks, it’s noticed,” she said.
She said that starting salaries for law graduates had leapt from 59 per cent of the national average weekly earnings in 1977 to 86 per cent now.
She added: “All this leads to a shift that more people qualifying with law degrees will be attracted to the law.”
Industry commentators have defended the high legal fees and salaries expected by lawyers, claiming that they enable them to spend more time and money advising on pro bono matters.