Today I am acting for a family who are being evicted from a bedbug-infested home

I am a 37 year old trainee solicitor working in Housing and Asylum Support for an annual salary of approximately £28,000.

Today I got in and the first thing I did was check my emails. It became clear that Migrant Help had ignored my first stage complaint. I had helped my destitute client to get a positive decision on a section 4 application. It had taken 5 weeks for the Home Office to give us a decision. The decision letter said he would be told when to be at his pick-up address at which point he would receive access to the accommodation and support he was entitled to. The decision was made more than two weeks ago and still my client has received no housing or support. I drafted a second stage complaint to the Home Office and the Political Ombudsman.

I moved into dealing with a section 8 possession hearing against a private landlord which is in court tomorrow. We intend to defend the claim and also counter claim under the Fitness for Human Habitation legislation as a result of a pre-existing flea/bedbug infestation in the property which is severely impacting my clients’ lives. I called the council, which confirmed all rent arrears had been cleared by a Discretionary Housing Payment we had applied for as the family are in receipt of the benefits cap. I called the landlord, who does not have his own lawyer. He refused to provide updated rent figures, shouted accusations down the phone about myself and my client and refused to discuss what his intentions are for the hearing tomorrow. I had to end the call as a result of his aggressive shouting. I then saw the client and tried to prepare him for court based on the limited information I had from the landlord.

Next I turned to the 11 emails I had received from a mentally ill client in the last 2.5 days. She needs help to be rehoused. Her mental health is deteriorating and I am very concerned about a lack of support from health and social services. I am also becoming concerned about her capacity to conduct legal proceedings. I have asked her to come in tomorrow so we can discuss the next steps in her case face to face.

It’s 12.30 and I am in the bus to our outreach service where I will run a drop-in legal clinic. My colleague is off work today so I will probably see 6-7 clients on my own.

I have significant debt as a result of paying for my GDL and LPC. I had to get a loan from my salary to pay for an annual travel pass which I am paying off monthly. I also have deductions from my wage for tuition fees from my bachelors degree which I graduated from 12 years ago. Today I am still only paying off the interest. I am a single parent. I cannot afford to live off my income despite a recent pay rise as I am about to qualify as a solicitor. I run a project on my own as well as my legal aid housing work. I had to ask for my pension contributions to be paused to give a tiny a bit of breathing space. I have attempted to argue for a larger pay rise due to the level of responsibility I have, my 7 years’ experience and the amount of money I bring in through grants and legal aid billing, but this has been refused.

Legal Help in housing pays £157.00 for up to 9.5 hours work. This is unsustainable for most practices and has led to massive housing law deserts across the UK. There is intense pressure on the few lawyers who continue to provide this work.

Today I am acting for a young person seeking asylum in the UK, after his father was killed before he fled his home country

noun_89997_ccIt’s asylum interview day today, accompanying a young person to an asylum interview at the Home Office. I meet the young person and their social worker at the Home Office regional office. I’m not too bad, it was about 45 minutes from where I live to this office, he lives nearly an hour and a half away. The waiting room is pretty soulless – the television screens don’t even show daytime TV! There is of course the ubiquitous Radio 2 in the background.

I can’t really do much while we’re waiting, it’s isolating enough for the young person so I don’t even want to be buried in my phone checking email. The social worker and I try and talk about something else to the young person while we wait. It doesn’t really work – the young person is so nervous, and with good cause. His father was killed and his brother almost killed before they fled their country.

We go in, it’s one of the better interviewing officers, but there’s nothing about this process you’d really call child friendly. There’s no PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) for asylum seekers so I have very little ability to intervene, even where the young person is asked why his brother – whose claim was accepted at the Tribunal – and him can’t just go back to their home country together. Some facts emerge regarding his journey that I hadn’t been aware of – that’s going to cause some problems and you can see my client knows it. Three and a half hours later and we’re done. He travels home, and I’ll see him as soon as I can to try and make some representations to improve the position for what looks like an inevitable appeal. Then we wait.

Working as a legal aid lawyer at a Law Centre, I have recently paid off the debts from my law degree and LPC, some 10 years after graduating. The bottom line means it’s so hard for firms to take the time needed with vulnerable clients, such as young people going through the asylum process, so they don’t get the level of service they need.

I am a paralegal acting for people who lack mental capacity



I am a paralegal working in court of protection, health and welfare litigation. I earn £19,000.

In this area of law, you are working for those who are assessed as lacking mental capacity in respect of a particular decision, this can be in relation to their care or where they live. Often they are deprived of their liberty, meaning they are under constant supervision and control and cannot leave their place of residence by themselves.

I have visited an elderly lady with dementia, who had escaped from her care home twice and an autistic gentleman with learning difficulties, who likes to wear women’s clothes and wanted to leave his residential placement to live in a hostel or a flat with lots of girls. I have visited a 31 year old who was in a car accident, aged 16, then 3 years later diagnosed with primary progressive MS, he was living miles away from his family and young daughter. In the office I spend the majority of my time drafting court documents or completing legal aid applications and forms.

Since working here I have witnessed several happy endings, recently a 70 year old traveller was assessed as having capacity and was released from hospital, where he had been deprived of his liberty for three months. A court order was put in place to restrict contact, but allow it to continue for an elderly lady with dementia who was being emotionally and verbally abused by her son, since the order was put in place the son has abided by the contact regime and the lady is doing well.

Since I started working as a paralegal in this team there have been cuts to the rates that barristers can receive and the rates that we can pay experts instructed in these matters. This has dissuaded those experts and barristers for continuing to do work in this area.

In my opinion the cuts to their fees, prey on those with a  conscience, those who are willing to do the work for the person at the centre of the case, knowing that it may not be a financially sensible decision. Those who are in a position where they have to consider finances carefully or no longer wish to work for such a small amount in comparison to the volume of work, will no longer assist in these matters.

I work more than 12 hour days, and get £12,000 a year to work in criminal defence.

I am a 24 year old trainee solicitor working in crime. I get paid £12,000 and work over 12 hours days.

I arrive noun_33418_ccat work at 8am. Phone calls from clients start now and end about 10pm

At 9:30 I have a prison visit. I normally sit around for 1 hour whilst my clientis found.

At 11am I check my mail, usually legal aid forms or certificates around 5 per day. I have to telephone clients who have filled in forms incorrectly (a high proportion of illiterate /vulnerable / elderly clients who don’t understand what the forms are actually asking and a lot of time is spent explaining the client situation to the court).

I typically do some legal research,admin and billing throughout the day. Admin usually means lots of time on hold to, or chasing, the  Legal Aid Agency, the police or the local council.

If I have to go to court, I will finish there at 4:30. When the court lists come out, I have to  check that we are still covered. Inevitably, I find that things have been pulled or moved up at the eleventh hour.

At 5pm I have client and barrister meetings so that my clients don’t have to take time off work.

I leave the office anywhere between 6pm and 9pm. I am on call for 12 hour shifts between 9pm and 9am about four times a month.

I’m 24, living with my parents, earning £12,000. I have a car loan to pay off and have to have a car for my job. I have an LPC loan to pay off which is crippling. I can’t afford day to day living as once I’ve paid the loans and helped out with household expenses there’s £200 left.

I am worried about the cuts, not for my  own struggle, that is essentially a choice, but I wonder how many people they expect to help clients on a pro bono basis? Access to justice is being totally denied.

We are all poorer for the cuts

I am a 30 year-old Trainee Solicitor working in housing law. My salary is £18,590 pa.

My clients are mostly social housing tenants facing eviction, or are already homeless and seeking accommodation from the Council, or have problems of disrepair in their homes.

I don’t have a typical day as such. I always start before 9am and try to finish at 5.30pm, but normally this ends up being 6-6.30pm. Whether I have a lunch break depends on whether I have urgent work to do, such as threaten a local authority with judicial review for not helping a client who is on the streets. Because I run my own caseload I like to take ownership over the work and I will do whatever is needed to get the job done for the clients. It’s a real cliché but I don’t do the work for the money – I do it for the same reason I went into law, to help people who are, for one reason or another, unable to enforce their rights.

I am fortunate enough to have family who have paid for my LPC, and a partner who earns more than me (though still not a lot compared to our peers). Without both of those I can’t see how I could have afforded to go into law.

The gap between the perception of legal aid lawyers’ wages and the reality is astounding. Even one of our clients assumed our solicitors earn six figures. I have worked in housing law since 2006 and had to take a pay cut of £10k from my previous role in a charity in order to train. £18,590 might not sound too bad, but when you live in the most expensive city in the world and your friends earn twice what you do, it does get to you – it’s all relative. My wage on qualification will not be much better.

The reality is that the cuts to legal aid have compoundnoun_237310_cc
ed the huge problems of social immobility where people from more disadvantaged backgrounds are shut out from pursuing a legal career, and for that we are all poorer.