The Law Society and SLAB are working on a joint project to gain a better understanding of the number of trainees involved in criminal and mixed practice.
We have calculated that there were 25-30 trainees at firms that are solely registered for criminal legal assistance, however we know that a number of trainees at firms carrying out a wider range of work will gain exposure to criminal work in their second year of a training contract. Currently only second year trainees can be admitted and appear in court.
An initial analysis by SLAB has shown that overall there are currently 185 first and second year trainees in 83 firms, both mixed practice and criminal-only, which earned any fees from criminal legal assistance in during the period from July 2017-July 18. SLAB has differentiated between traineeships which take place in firms where criminal legal aid is carried out regularly (earning at least £100,000 in criminal legal aid fees) and those who are registered but only occasionally carry out criminal legal aid work. On that basis, a total of 86 trainees were in either mixed practice and/or criminal-only firms which had carried out higher levels of criminal legal aid work in 2017-18. A number of this group are likely to have gained experience of criminal legal aid work.
By working with SLAB we will be able to analyse their data and ours to gain a better understanding of trainees and legal aid work. We are collating data from the past five practice years on trainees and hope this current piece of work, and further joint research into trainee activity, will add to our understanding of criminal trainee levels, identify trends and any implications there may be for the criminal and civil legal aid sector.
New entrants are essential to maintaining an effective criminal bar in Scotland and we must continue to work to ensure that our legal aid system works for the people who need advice and representation to uphold their rights, and for those who provide it.
We will publish further information following the joint analysis.