Legal aid lawyers becoming disillusioned, claims Booth

CHERIE Booth QC took a sideswipe at the state of the legal aid system during a reception to celebrate the 20th anniversary of leading London legal aid firm Hodge Jones & Allen.

The Prime Minister's wife was the star guest at the reception, which also marked the official opening of the firm's new Camden headquarters.

Booth, who took some of her first instructions from the firm, praised it for its continued “idealism”.

She added, pointedly, that she was delighted the firm was “continuing to look forward” after 20 years, “at a time when many people are asking 'what's the point of continuing to deliver legal services to the less well-off in society?'”

Earlier, the firm's senior partner, Henry Hodge, deputy chairman of the Legal Aid Board, had attacked the legal aid reforms planned by the Government.

He said that his firm had been “gobsmacked” by the scope of the legal aid reforms planned by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine.

The firm was founded in September 1977 by Hodge, Patrick Allen, the managing partner, and Peter Jones, who has since left the firm.

It now has 75 staff and is one of the top recipients of legal aid in the country.

Speaking of the firm's new premises, Allen said: “For years we have struggled with cramped and old-fashioned offices on different sites. We are delighted that all our staff are now able to work under one roof. These offices also enable us to continue our expansion programme.”