21 Dec 2011

New legal aid fees not high enough for senior lawyers

8:31 am on 21 December 2011

The Law Society says new fixed fee rates may drive senior lawyers out of legal aid criminal cases because it's no longer financially viable.

President Jonathan Temm says the rates issued by the Ministry of Justice are so low it will be uneconomic for quality lawyers to take on cases with legal aid.

Lawyers will earn between $300 - $390 for a guilty plea and a maximum of $550 for a defended hearing.

Mr Temm says the society is not opposed to a fixed-fee system, but it has to be based on a realistic hourly rate.

Barrister Stuart Grieve QC says he's done a lot of legal aid work in his career because he thinks it's important to give back to the community.

But he's considering giving up legal aid work altogether and many others will do the same.

The ministry says it believes the fixed fee levels strike the right balance and it does not expect there to be a lack of lawyers.