Legal aid fee earner league distorted, says Law Society

A TOP 10 list of leading legal aid fee earning firms has been greeted with claims that the figures are distorted.

For the first time, the Lord Chancellor's Department has published a list of the leading legal aid earners by name.

But Russell Wallman, head of professional policy at the Law Society, said the figures, based on payments by the Legal Aid Board, were misleading because they included disbursements and were based on final bills, which could represent several years work.

“In firms that do a mix of private and legal aid work, the private work subsidises the legal aid work,” he said.

According to the table for 1994-95, London firm Leigh Day & Co received nearly three times as much as any of its rivals. Most of this money came from a case against British Nuclear fuels which took six years to complete and involved 35 medical experts.

Sarah Leigh, senior partner at Leigh Day & Co, acknowledged the firm received a lot of money for the case, but said that the system has changed and firms that lose legal aid cases are paid at a low level.

Michael Napier, senior partner at Irwin Mitchell, which came fourth said: “We are not in the least bit ashamed of the table or our place in it.”