‘Flight of solicitors’ from legal aid family law panel

'Flight of solicitors' from legal aid family law panel

Keith Walsh

There has been a “flight of solicitors” from the legal aid family law panel due to the poor rates paid for legal aid work, a leading family lawyer has said.

Keith Walsh, who practises in Dublin, made the comments following the launch of the Legal Aid Board’s annual report for 2021 yesterday.

The report reveals that demand for legal aid remains below pre-pandemic levels, but is growing sharply in areas including international protection.

John McDaid, chief executive of the Legal Aid Board, yesterday paid tribute to the “contributions of those private solicitors who often work for fees that could be in no way described as generous”.

Mr Walsh today told Irish Legal News: “It is completely unacceptable that solicitors are offered an uneconomic rate of legal aid to perform specialist work in the District Court for vulnerable clients, and there has been a flight of solicitors from the legal aid family law panel.

“Yet again this year, in an €11 billion budget there was no increase in Legal Aid Board fees. Ultimately, this failure impacts on access to justice for those who need it most.”

He added: “The Legal Aid Board will be very involved in the new Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act which is expected to be commenced on 21st November 2022, and it is to be hoped that the Board and the private practitioners will be properly resourced as this work involves helping and supporting vulnerable adults and their families.”

Waiting times at Legal Aid Board law centres are reducing, though the waiting time remains 33 weeks in Smithfield, 27 weeks in Dundalk and 28 weeks in Cork South Mall. The shortest waiting times are in Blanchardstown (six weeks) and Galway Francis Street (10 weeks).

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