QC Works to Reinvigorate Legal Aid as Senior Barristers Seek to Stem the Tide of Decline

QC Works to Reinvigorate Legal Aid as Senior Barristers Seek to Stem the Tide of Decline 3

Maria Dew QC’s efforts to reinvigorate the attractions – if that is the word – of legal aid is designed to help reverse the dramatic decline of legal aid suppliers, driven by remuneration and compliance problems.

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Writing in the Law Society’s weekly bulletin, Ms Dew referred to the death of her own civil legal aid practice in 2002 when she resigned due to frustration over the administrative requirements and limitations placed upon clients.

Legal aid providers have fallen by 54 per cent in the five years between 2011 and 2016 with no sign of any pickup in supplier interest.

She records:

2017: 147 active providers in New Zealand.
2018: 123 active providers in New Zealand.
(This data from Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin of the University of Otago Legal Issues Centre has been provided based on Official Information requests made to the Ministry of Justice. The definition of “active” providers is based on providers who had been appointed to two or more civil legal aid cases per annum).

These are alarming statistics and they expose that the bulk of civil litigators, in firms and in sole practice, are no longer making any contribution to legal aid work or the access to justice which legal aid work allows.

Maria Dew QC

The ‘sobering data’ has prompted her to re-join the programme as civil legal aid providers along with other barrister, she says.

She is hoping that 2020 will provide a rebirth of the programme to reverse the seemingly irreversible decline in legal aid supplier numbers.

As the Government works to improve access to justice – the catchcry for so many Justice-related appointments and issues including the recent slew of District Court appointments, reversing the decline in legal aid suppliers is undoubtedly one of the key cornerstones of any such policy.

Whether Ms Dew’s exhortations and efforts will do so remains to be seen.

Coming Soon – The LawFuel List of the ‘Stayers’ in Legal Aid – And What They Receive

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