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Judges Paid Too Much, Says Law News Site

Judges Paid Too Much, Says Law News Site

The Remuneration Authority is placing the bar too high in terms of determining the level at which judicial salaries should be set, according to reports from law news website LawFuel.co.nz.

The question of judicial salaries was raised in a Sunday Star-Times article in the weekend, which indicated that the salaries and the generous superannuation scheme awarded judges was necessary to attract the right calibre of lawyer to the bench.

Legal sources, named and unnamed, spoken to by LawFuel indicate that a tiny handful of lawyers earn much more than the figures quoted by the newspaper.

One said there had been a "wholesale collapse" in earnings for many senior lawyers in mid-tier and even so-called top tier law firms.Long time law firm consultant Ashley Balls agreed that senior partners can earn more than $750,000 but it was "by no means normal," he told LawFuel.

The Sunday Star-Times story said senior partners at large firms would probably earn more than $750,000 and annual earnings for barrister QCs were typically between $850,000 and $1.2m."

The source said he had considered joining the bench in his 40s, but a rise in public criticism of the judiciary, a likely drop in earnings and a need to remove himself from public life made such a move unattractive."

The Sunday Times story reported that five of the country's highest paid employees are judges may have surprised no-one, but the gold-plated superannuation scheme added what the paper calculated was another $22 million to the taxpayer bill for the judiciary.

However, law firm consultant Ashley Balls, who has advised large and small firms on a range of matters, including remuneration issues, for many years and is surprised that there has not been wider consultation with such advisers as to the earnings of top lawyers.

"As for Silks at up $1.2M – I have to dispute this. Again, there are a few but the numbers just don’t work. It is virtually impossible for any lawyer to do more than 1500 hours of billable time in a year. If all that work was completed at $800 per hour, unlikely as some discounting occurs, there are deductions for rent, secretarial and other overheads of at least $150K. Again a few are at the level suggested but not many."

Read the rest of the story at LawFuel here: http://www.lawfuel.co.nz/news/1122/gold-plated-judges-are-they-overpaid

ENDS

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