In order to keep up with work, criminal barristers in the UK routinely skip lunch.
The revelation comes from Angela Rafferty QC, who chairs The Criminal Bar Association of England and Wales. The comment comes as the UK reforms its Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme after a consultation proposed paying criminal advocates based on complexity of a matter rather than the pages of a case.
“Everyone is ground down and the latest fee reform will feel like another huge worry. I know that you are all being asked to do more and more for less and less including training outside work hours and the constant drafting of documents and reading of huge volumes of material you know you will never be paid for,” Rafferty said in a note to criminal barristers.
The silk said that a straw poll she recently conducted revealed that “very few” barristers have had “a full lunch break in weeks.”
She said that advocates are regularly expected to expected be on tasks while when everyone else is having a break. These tasks include conferences, drafting admissions, preparing interview edits, legal research for the judge, and sometimes doing skeleton arguments that have been asked for at a moment’s notice.
“All of this might be acceptable if we are being properly remunerated and valued. But we are not. The system relies heavily upon the goodwill of the criminal bar, but the present crisis means that many are struggling to survive,” she said.
“Our working day doesn’t start when the court sits or end when it rises. We are losing our talented members who simply cannot cope with the attrition of endless hours for little pay. We hope those members of the judiciary reading this are sympathetic and will make efforts to make our lives a bit more manageable,” Rafferty said.