Yesterday, I posted a hypothetical article exploring what it would be like if the members of a profession other than the legal profession were expected to work for free.
This was prompted by a think tank study suggesting that lawyers should be made to work for free.
Regardless of the reasons given in the report (“reputational repair”…), the clear drive for this is to fill the huge advice desert created by the Government’s legal changes over the past three years, in particular, LASPO (the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012). Indeed the day after the report was published, Michael Gove announced that the Government will not backtrack on their legal aid changes (and why should they – the “fix” was announced the day before).
The proposal, when you look into it in a bit more depth, however, is truly startling in the liberties it takes with the rights of the British professional.
These plans, if brought to fruition, will result in lawyers working for free for up to 10% of their working year. The proposal is that this will be compulsory.
The only other societal situation in which this occurs, is in “Community Payback” (the current name for what we used to know as Community Service).
Community Payback is a compulsory work order given to convicted criminals as an alternative to custodial sentences.
According to Gov.UK, Community Payback sentences can be given for periods of 40 to 300 hours, depending upon the seriousness of the crime. The average of 40 and 300, is 170 hours.
170 hours is 4.25 working weeks.
10% of a lawyer’s working year, is 4.8 weeks (10% of 48 weeks, having deducted 4 weeks holiday).
So to summarise, the Government’s latest proposal to fill the advice vacuum left by their hugely destructive legal changes, is that lawyers should do more compulsory unpaid work in a year than criminals convicted of offences such as damaging property, benefit fraud and assault.
Only, unlike criminals, lawyers should have to do this every year of their career.
Sentenced, but not tried or convicted.
I can’t wait to see the legal justification for this.
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