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Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Monday, 6 June 2005 13:02 UK

'We're not being valued'

Barrister
Barristers are paid only for the hours they spend in court
A survey of barristers suggests they are angry enough about pay rates for publicly-funded cases that they may refuse to take on cases. BBC News website spoke to one barrister.

Shereener Browne, 34, has been a barrister for nine years and works in London.

She says on average she would spend five to six hours preparing for a criminal case, with an additional three hours of daily preparation for a trial.

However, she is not paid for this preparation time or expenses as hourly pay rates for crown court trials apply only to time spent in court.

Once in court for a trial she usually spends five hours daily, reducing to a couple of hours for other cases.

Hourly rates for the 95% of crown court trials which last up to 10 days have not changed since 1997.

Among barristers already practicing there is a feeling of being a bit jaded, that we're not being valued, and there is a reluctance to put in the work
Shereener Browne
Barrister

Current hourly rates for defending in legal aid cases are 33.50 for a junior, 47 for a leading junior and 62.50 for a QC.

Ms Browne said that if a case is particularly complex, either legally or factually, the pay does not reflect the level of thoroughness a lawyer should perform.

"The impression that the government wants to give the public with the way they remunerate is that this area of law is not as important as other areas.

"Comparatively speaking we earn a lot less than other areas of law - and this work is very important."

She said the continuing low pay would discourage not only current barristers, but also younger ones from taking up public work.

"Among barristers already practising there is a feeling of being a bit jaded, that we're not being valued, and there is a reluctance to put in the work," Ms Browne said.

Privileged position

"There is the possibility that recruits will be less likely to do crime cases. There will be a brain drain as the creme de la creme will go to other parts of law."

She acknowledged that earning between 350 and 650 for a trial does sound quite lucrative, but called on the public to realise the importance of a barrister's role.

"Obviously as barristers we earn far more than the general population and we are in a privileged position, but we are important to ensure the court's integrity.

"What we are asking for is not at all unreasonable - we just want the number of hours we work to be reflected in our pay."



SEE ALSO
Legal aid overhaul plan unveiled
17 May 05 |  Politics
Legal aid plan criticised by MPs
27 Jul 04 |  Politics

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