A senior lawyer in the UK said lawyers are often paid less per hour than people who work in fast food restaurants. Chris Henley, chairman of the UK’s Criminal Bar Association, said, “Too often the hourly counsel wages are worse than those at McDonald’s”, adding that this sadly “is not a hyperbole. He cites an example of a lawyer being paid £ 46.50 to make preparations overnight and appearing in court all day, which means being paid £ 5
The average junior criminal lawyer with up to 15 years of experience is around £ 40,000 per year. After deducting the rent for space and other items, there are around £ 28,000 left, according to Bar Council data. This is still considerably higher than the annual income of someone working at McDonald’s, with a starting wage of £ 8 per hour or £ 16,640 per year.
But it is the low average flat wage of public lawyers and the lengthy time a case prepares for them to receive wages below the minimum level. Some attorneys earn more money and private lawyers earn hundreds of thousands of pounds. Criminal lawyers can also increase their income by combining public and private cases. £ 5.80 per hour
Becoming a legal advisor can be a very lucrative profession, especially in the private sector as they are often paid by the hour. But government-funded general criminal case lawyers face a different set of circumstances.
The wage rates for public prosecutors and defense attorneys are determined by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) respectively – and most lawyers are self-employed so they also have to pay their gross payments for travel, insurance, pensions and other expenses. Junior criminal lawyers with 10 years of experience will receive £ 46.50 each time they appear in court. If that is viewed as working eight hours a day including appearances in court, preparation and travel time, then they earn £ 5.80 per hour – well below the minimum wage.
Actress Maxine Peake took part in protests against cuts in legal aid in 2014, with a junior defense attorney being paid £ 90 per appearance in court and £ 125 The basic court wage is £ 600 or p11 million but can be higher depending on the offense being tried and how long the trial is expected to last. The Criminal Bar Association calculates the average hourly fee of a prosecutor’s attorney as £ 20, or less at a quarter of Crown Court hearings. Lawyers will meet next week to discuss steps to take regarding the wages “crisis”.
Last year, the MoJ launched a new system, classifying different types of offenses by level of complexity, or how much lawyers should be paid in court. For example, multiple homicides, the highest class offense, require attorneys to be paid the highest level to represent the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence.