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Legal aid unpacked – new book shares first census findings

21 August 2023

The effects of austerity and how they have contributed to a legal aid crisis are explored in a new book which brings together the thoughts of thousands of legal professionals.

Legal Aid and the Future of Access to Justice, has been several years in the making and is co-authored by Reader in Law at the School of Law and Politics, Dan Newman together with Catrina Denvir and Jessica Mant of Monash University, and Jacqueline Kinghan of University of Glasgow.

The group have been working together since 2021 when they launched the first ever Legal Aid Census and, it is the results of this ground-breaking workforce survey which underpin their new book.

The sector has been significantly impacted by cuts and reforms over the past few decades. The aim of the census was to feed into ongoing policy reviews and to be used to help reform the sector and hopefully, improve access to justice for those who rely upon legal aid.

The census collected information from legal aid providers which included capturing their backgrounds, details of their daily work, the challenges they faced supporting their clients in the context of austerity measures as well as the impact of COVID-19 on their work. Legal professionals past and present were also asked about their perceptions and views of the future sustainability of the legal aid sector.

Speaking about the book, Dan Newman said, “We wanted to provide the most comprehensive research study of the legal aid sector that had ever been conducted. So many lawyers are leaving legal aid as the stressful working conditions and poor work-life balance are not worth the relatively low pay. We got funding from the Legal Aid Practitioners Group to make the book open access as we want it to reach as many folk as possible. The story of the legal aid sector needs to be heard. The work they do is crucial to access to justice but it is under great threat.”

“We hope it will be valuable to those who want to understand who works in legal aid, why they undertake this crucial work and the challenges they work under. We want to draw attention to the sector.”

Dr Daniel Newman Reader in Law

Linking the book to his teaching, Dan said, “There are fears that the average age of criminal lawyers is increasing which means there are concerns as to where the next generation will come from. We explore this in my module Crime, Law and Society as it’s important that our students learn about the reality of working in legal aid: a vital area of lawyering that many are put off from.”

Legal Aid and the Future of Access to Justice is available on the Bloomsbury website from July 2023.

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