Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

The Legal Aid Conundrum

The Legal Aid Conundrum - Millions Spent, But Still Not Enough LawFuel -


The Law Jobs and News Wire The release of the legal aid earnings for lawyers in New Zealand shows the massive amounts going to firms and barristers, but raises questions about the manner in which the figures are presented - and how much the scheme costs to administer.

Lawfuel.co.nz released figures provided by the Legal Services Agency (LSA), showing a total of over $88 million to over 1200 lawyers and law firms in the last six months of 2007 alone.

Top earning law firm was Kensington Swan over the six month period, with over $1.3 million, with Wellington's psychiatric claims lawyer Sonja Cooper taking a top spot consisistently over recent years.

Although issues may be raised about the direction in which some legal aid funding is made, the key question for legal aid lawyers is the legal aid payments, notwithstanding the millions spent. And one of their key gripes is the amount spent on the administration of the scheme, as well as the way figures are portrayed.

Legal aid internationally is creating major issues for lawyers who handle the work, with a boycott of the UK Legal Services Commission's new contracts this year. Lawyers in the the UK have even spoken of striking over the new contracts they are expected to sign.

In New Zealand legal aid rates have also been the subject of contention, given that the rates have not been adjusted since 1996. The base rate is $95 an hour. Although the LSA recommended a 16 per cent rate rise to $191 an hour for senior lawyers (inclusive of GST), which remain at well under current commercial rates for senior lawyers, let alone rates actually stipulated as being appropriate by the High Court in Solicitor General v. Panzer in 2001. The proposed rate rise is considered entirely inappropriate by lawyers.

The issue with the figures issued by the LSA is that the figures fail to identify actual costs incurred by legally-aided lawyers, such as other fee earners working in barristers' chambers, for instance, together with disbursements and GST.

Further, the figures released do not reflect the actual amount incurred by the LSA's administration, which is considerable and growing. The last accounts reveal administration costs approaching $19 million, excluding legal aid payments.

The issue has come to light on many occasions in recent years, most recently with the David Bain retrial, where the defence lawyers have consistently requested additional funding to deliver a proper defence and deal with the mountain of additional, let alone existing paperwork and evidence required to be considered.

The routine for applying to the LSA is intensely time-consuming - that is, costly. This is particularly the case when expert evidence is needed. However, even basic legal aid applications require considerable time and effort.

The legal aid list can be downloaded from www.Lawfuel.co.nz at Legal

ENDS


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Back Again: Government Approves TPP11 Mandate

The Government has approved a negotiating mandate for Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 (TPP11), which will ensure New Zealand businesses remain competitive in overseas markets.

Trade Minister Todd McClay says New Zealand will be pushing for the minimal number of changes possible to the original TPP agreement, something that the remaining TPP11 countries have agreed on. More>>

ALSO:

.

 
 

Gordon Campbell: On Why Labour Isn’t Responsible For Barnaby Joyce

As a desperate Turnbull government tries to treat the Barnaby Joyce affair as a Pauline Hanson fever dream – blame it on the foreigners! We’re the victims of the dastardly New Zealand Labour Party! – our own government has chosen to further that narrative, and make itself an accomplice. More>>

ALSO:

Rail: Greens Back Tauranga – Hamilton – Auckland Service

The Green Party today announced that it will trial a passenger rail service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga starting in 2019, when it is in government. More>>

ALSO:

Housing: Voluntary Rental Warrant Of Fitness For Wellington

Wellington City Council is partnering with the University of Otago, Wellington, to launch a voluntary Rental Warrant of Fitness for minimum housing standards in Wellington, Mayor Justin Lester has announced. More>>

ALSO:

Treaty: Agreement In Principle Signed With Moriori

“The Crown acknowledges Moriori was left virtually landless from 1870, hindering its cultural, social and economic development. The Crown also acknowledges its contribution to the myths that the people of Moriori were racially inferior and became extinct." More>>

ALSO:

Susan Devoy: Call For Inquiry Into State Abuse Reaches UN

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy is in Geneva and has asked a United Nations committee to urge the New Zealand government to initiate an inquiry into the physical and sexual abuse of children and disabled people held in state institutions. More>>

ALSO:

(Not National): Cross-Party Agreement On Pike River Re-Entry

The commitment was signed this afternoon by the leaders of Labour, United Future, The Maori Party, and the Green Party and, together with the earlier commitment by New Zealand First, means that there is now a Parliamentary majority behind the families’ fight for truth and justice. More>>

ALSO:

Earlier:

 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election