Law Society Reveals Less Than 20% Of Junior Lawyers Want a Criminal Defence Career

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Law Society Reveals Less Than 20% Of Junior Lawyers Want a Criminal Defence Career

On 27th May 2022 the Law Society released the response of a flash poll in which it sought some opinions from just short of one-hundred-and forty aspiring junior lawyers in the eighteen to thirty-five-year-old demographic and made several concerning findings.

What Did The Survey Find?

Prior to the 2009 banking crisis the Law Society was suspicious over those aspiring to a criminal law career were becoming disillusioned by the profession and thought that many did not see such a career as feasible. The results published in the report go some way to realising that those suspicions and the Law Society indicated that they are not exactly surprised by the findings.

So Why Are Lawyers Ditching Criminal Law?

Lawyers provided some reasons to the Law Society as to why they are jumping ship from the criminal law to other branches of the legal profession. They cited:

  • eyewatering levels of indebtedness
  • low wages
  • excessively long working hours
  • perceptively inadequate working conditions
  • poor chances of career progression and
  • the perception of the governing authorities being against the profession.

The higher echelons of the legal profession commented on the recent developments and what they had found could hardly be described as a revelation. The holder of the esteemed position of President of the Law Society, Stephanie Boyce commented that lawyers specialising in the area of legal aid for criminal law matters have not received an increase in salary for a quarter of a century and would like the UK Government to consider giving those working in this area of a law a pay rise. A respondent to the survey compared the rates which were charged way back in the heady days of 1995 and the situation as it presently subsists. They commented that the criminal defence sector is still keeping their prices at 1995 levels and questioned the sustainability.

Is This Part Of a Wider Pattern?

The Criminal Justice Joint Inspection on 17th May 2022 released a progress report entitled ‘the Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the criminal justice system’ in which chief inspectors within the profession cautioned the top brass that the courts will need rising numbers of both criminal and defence lawyers in order to deal with the backlog which has hampered the profession over the last few years.

In August 2021 the storm clouds appeared to have been gathering apace. The Criminal Bar Association observed the shortfall in the number of legal professionals working in the position of barristers. A lawyer specialising in criminal law with Woollcombe Yonge Solicitors commented that those seeking a career in the legal profession can see the pitfalls of taking on a career in the criminal law sphere. She said many up and coming lawyers have come to realise that the outlook for the legal profession in the area of criminal law is extremely grim to say the least.

The problems have not changed and appear to include:

  • decreasing poverty pay
  • large caseloads which are difficult to manage and
  • courts which are falling to pieces in front of their eyes.

The esteemed Dr James Thornton from Nottingham University summed up the situation best when he compared the present situation to events five years ago. He commented that he did not know of any previous students who had progressed to take their traineeship in the sphere of criminal law. This is in stark contrast to those legal professionals who have chosen to proceed down avenues which were significantly more lucrative in terms of compensation.

The Legists Content Team


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[1] Fouzder, Monidipa – No future in criminal defence, juniors tell Law Society – Law Society Gazette - 1 June 2022 Reform criminal appeal process to cut miscarriages of justice / Justice and Home Affairs / Policy Commissions / Labour Policymaking

[2] Fouzder, Monidipa – Courts crisis – Inspectors demand more resources for defence – Law Society Gazette – 17 May 2022 - Courts crisis - Inspectors demand more resources for defence | News | Law Gazette

[3] Criminal Justice Joint Inspection – The impact of the Covid-9 pandemic on the criminal justice system – a progress report – May 2022 - CJ-Covid-19-recovery-progress-report-web-2022.pdf (

[4] Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2021 - Crime in England and Wales - Office for National Statistics (

[5] McKinney- CJ – Meet the law students having second thoughts about criminal practice – 12 August 2021 – Legal Cheek - Meet the law students having second thoughts about criminal practice - Legal Cheek

[6] McKinney- CJ – Do law students still fancy a life in crime – 10 August 2021 – Legal Cheek - Do law students still fancy a life in crime? - Legal Cheek

[7] Virdee, Monica – A first class career with a 2.2 degree – Law Society - A first-class career with a 2.2 degree | The Law Society



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