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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 01:08 GMT
Barrister: we are not 'fat cats'
Scales of justice
Mr Vos said his profession is crucial to the "fabric" of the justice system
Barristers are unfairly labelled as "fat cats" and should be given the same recognition as teachers and nurses, a leading lawyer has urged.

Geoffrey Vos QC, chairman of the Bar Council for England and Wales, hit back at claims that the profession received high fees for short working hours.

He said that half of barristers do publicly-funded work for "relatively modest pay".

Mr Vos added publicly-funded barristers played an "essential" role in society.

Speaking at the Bar's annual conference, Mr Vos said barristers are "in no sense fat cats", and should be more "openly accepted" by the Government in the same way as nurses, doctors and teachers.

It is estimated that a criminal barrister with three years experience will earn 40,000 - but takes home only half that after tax and expenses.

Mr Vos told the conference: "Perhaps 50% of barristers undertake publicly-funded criminal defence or prosecution, family, immigration or administrative work in return for relatively modest fees.

"Indeed, I suggest that the publicly-funded Bar is essential to the fabric of our criminal and family justice system.

"That justice system underpins our society. It makes it safe and secure."

The Ministry of Justice said hard-working and dedicated legal aid practitioners played a "vital role" in ensuring people had access to justice.

Mr Vos also used to the conference to warn that it would be a "calamitous folly" for the country to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

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