Dom Post on Legal Aid

May 31st, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The threat of industrial action from lawyers opposed to the expansion of the Public Defence Service is a self-interested attempt to stay hitched to a taxpayer-funded gravy train.

Despite claims to the contrary, talk of lawyers working to rule in protest at the changes is primarily motivated by the same reason behind most industrial action – money. …

It is not hard to feel some sympathy for legal aid lawyers caught by the changes. The vast majority are scrupulously honest, yet the whole profession has been punished for the greed and misdeeds of a few.

But the profession had plenty of warning that the Government was concerned about the rising cost of legal aid and should have put its house in order. The failure to do so left Mr Power with little choice but to act. The threat of protests against the PDS should be seen for what it is – a last-ditch bid to get him to change his mind, motivated by a looming loss of taxpayer-funded income. He is right to stand his ground.

It is somewhat ironic that a National Government is partially nationalising part of the justice sector, but I thinks the changes are necessary. The status quo wasn’t defensible.

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75 Responses to “Dom Post on Legal Aid”

  1. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    I’ll agree the status quo was a mess. I’ll agree that this change has a fair chance of being successful. I’d be interested in what general conclusions we draw though:
    1. That having services that are government funded but privately provided is risky, with potential incentives for those private providers to over deliver services – provider capture. If we think this, what might it tell us about private provision in health and education, maybe prisons?

    2. That public funding and private provision is risky in an environment where there are few checks and balances, and that we should be very careful in these models that there is true competition and tendering. If this is our conclusion, then the problem with the service as it stood was that the price per hour was fixed, there was no bulk tendering of the cost to represent a particular client. In this day and age, where it’s possible to tender out all sorts of things, maybe a better approach would have been to tender for representation of “100 cases” or something like that

    3. That a regular shakeup is needed in any area. Usually this comes about through technology change or competition. Some areas, such as this one, haven’t really changed dramatically in years. It isn’t so much about public v’s private, rather just that the vested interests build on any area, and changing things every few years keeps everyone on their toes.

    4. That public provision of most services is inherently inefficient. This change will initially show benefits (due to point 3), but long-term is going to result in a new underperforming government service that will be rationed through waiting lists and budget cuts.

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  2. RightNow (6,642 comments) says:

    Lawyers taking industrial action? Great, so that means a reduction in their billable hours that the taxpayer pays doesn’t it?

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  3. KH (687 comments) says:

    I have been overhearing from the lawyers how they have been paid at low rates for legal aid.
    When the reality is that many are not able to get work at all unless it is legal aid.

    And I am in a position, via the system not as a client I would point out, that many things are padded out, to continue some lawyers legal aid income. Prolonged custody battles being an example.

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  4. RightNow (6,642 comments) says:

    KH – so essentially you’re saying there are too many lawyers for the amount of (real) work available?

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  5. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Except, KH, that family legal aid is not being affected by the PDS, only criminal legal aid.

    The law society says that work to rule or industrial action is not possible under the contracts lawyers have with the LSA. That leaves very few options, the main one probably being a mass refusal to continue with the contract, most of them due for renewal in a few weeks time.

    Apparently the government was planning to take the PDS to 75% of all legal aid, but it appears that the NZ Law Society may have headed them off on that.

    The problem with criminal legal aid is that it is reactive, not proactive. It only becomes necessary after the Police have laid charges. When the number of charges continue to climb year upon year, then the amount of legal aid spent goes up. To compound this, when trials get bigger and bigger and take longer and longer (all caused by the prosecution, mind you, and the legal obligations they face to prove their case) then costs will rise.

    The other thing to note is that most NZ criminal lawyers to rely on legal aid. That is because the NZ Courts do not award costs to privately funded defendants if the defendant is acquitted except in the rarest of cases. As a result, defendants all try to get on legal aid so they don’t have to fund their defence. Start awarding costs in unsuccessful prosecutions and see a) the Police start to use their discretion more often and b) more privately funded defences.

    However the easy solution is to do what more and more of my colleagues are doing- stop practising criminal law. The pool of available lawyers is going to shrink until you will have the option of either practitioners who only do criminal work a small amount of the time, or else the PDS.

    As you said, DPF, it is odd that a National government is part-nationalising the part of the profession where independence is most necessary…

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  6. alex Masterley (1,489 comments) says:

    The NZLS also has until November of this year to get it’s regulatory house in order otherwise that role may well be taken from it. (Minister Powers cabinet paper on the subject that followed the Bazely report).

    As far as I am concerned the sooner November arrives and that role is removed from it the better.

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  7. Nick R (497 comments) says:

    What F E Smith said.

    The legal aid regime isn’t being reformed because of any misconduct by lawyers. They could deal with that simply by cancelling the contracts of the lawyers in question. So this isn’t a case of bad apples spoiling things for the honest majority. It is simply about cost. This is fair enough – it is very difficult to control legal aid costs without rationing the supply of services. The Government can’t do that (except by tinkering round the edges, such as limiting aid for Family Court cases). It can’t really cut aid for Treaty claims without compromising its own policy for achieving settlements as quickly as possible. Civil legal aid is already hard to get. So the savings have to come from the criminal legal aid budget. The Public Defender approach is an attempt to do that effectively by bulk funding the defence.

    Personally I am very worried that the PDS will not be a strong or independent advocate for those who have been charged with offences, as its only purpose is to save money. They will be under pressure to deliver savings from day one, and I worry that this will be achieved by pressuring people to plead guilty. I am concerned the outcome will be a second rate service which reinforces the perception that justice is for the rich.

    As for nationalisation – perhaps the Government will float 49% of the PDS for mum and dad investors.

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  8. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    F E Smith “when trials get bigger and bigger and take longer and longer (all caused by the prosecution, mind you, and the legal obligations they face to prove their case) then costs will rise”

    Seems like an odd way of thinking about it. Clearly the vast majority of legal aid cost is due to guilty scumbags pleading “not guilty”. Prosecution wouldn’t be costing much if the defence was honest.

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  9. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    alex, if that is taken away from the NZLS then I won’t have to be a member at all! The NZ Bar Association is good enough for me as a professional body sans regulatory functions, certainly seems to have the Bar’s interests at heart far more than the NZLS.

    Jonathan Temm put out a note the other day essentially saying they sympathise with the criminal defence lawyers, but as we make up such a small part of the profession we aren’t worth having a fight with the government over. Since we are less than 9% of the profession, with specialists less than 5% of the profession, I suppose that makes sense. So the most important part of the justice system, an independent criminal defence bar, is sacrificed for political expediency.

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  10. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    “Seems like an odd way of thinking about it. Clearly the vast majority of legal aid cost is due to guilty scumbags pleading “not guilty”. Prosecution wouldn’t be costing much if the defence was honest.”

    That sort of ignorance gets me angry. You obviously have no clue about the way the justice system works yet you are willing to make blanket comments like that.

    Over 90% of charges are answered by a plea of guilty. Did you get that??? Over 90%!!!! The fact is that we have a system where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The main part of that is ‘proven guilty’. If the Crown/Police cannot prove the person is guilty, then the defendant should not be convicted. AT ALL.

    Contrary to what most people seem to believe, the Police often charge innocent people with crimes. I am not saying it is a majority, but it is quite common. Other times they charge guilty people but don’t have the evidence sufficient to convict them.

    And sometimes defendants are so bloody minded that they will ignore their lawyer telling them they are screwed and not plead just for the hell of it.

    Whatever way you look at it, we cannot force our clients to plead and we are legally obligated to follow their instructions unless those instructions are illegal or unethical (broadly put).

    When not guily pleas make up less than 10% of cases, and when criminal jury trials make up only about a quarter of those not guilty pleas, you realise just what a stupid statement it is that you have just made. It is cases like the Urewera case, or like the big meth cases, that cost the huge money, cases that, funnily enough, the PDS refuses to get involved in. Why do they refuse to get invovled in them? Because the PDS knows that if it did then its cost per case amount would skyrocket, something it cannot afford to have happen until it has a monopoly. And if I read the signs correctly, the PDS will be looking for 100% of legal aid cases to be assigned to them within the next 5 years or so, regardless of what the government says now.

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  11. Bob R (1,334 comments) says:

    Could they do the same with Treaty law? That’s another out of control gravy train.

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  12. queenstfarmer (742 comments) says:

    Editorial is spot on. As I understand it, the expanded PDS will be run as a trial.

    By the way, the comments made the Wellington barrister on TVNZ7 last night – including that PDS lawyer’s weren’t “real lawyers” – were disgraceful.

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  13. alex Masterley (1,489 comments) says:

    What FES said.

    I don’t do legal aid work so cannot comment on what Minister Power is doing as it won’t affect me.

    If we are lucky the Treaty GT will be examined closely.

    And if NZLS became voluntary, I would simply stick with ADLS inc becasue they do a better job than NZLS.

    As an aside a potential down side of the legal aid changes will be an increase in self represented litigants. This will slow down and clog courts and thus add to cost. It’s already happening in the civil courts and the family court.

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  14. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    qeeenstfarmer, the editorial is not spot on at all. And as I understand it, the PDS is no longer a trial, it is cemented in. Moreover, as the number of private criminal defence lawyers is reduced (and there are already quite a few lawyers getting out of criminal defence work as the number of cases they get via legal aid has dropped drastically) the PDS will not be able to be disestabilished because there will not be the private sector expertise to fill the void. Like it or not, when the PDS is fully established it will slowly become the only provider of criminal legal in NZ.

    And the editorial trys to have its cake and eat it when it says:

    “The claim that some lawyers who work for the PDS could pressure innocent clients to plead guilty is an unwarranted affront to their professional integrity. They will be governed by the same ethics as their brethren in other fields, and those who fail to live up to their duty to their clients should be readily apparent and dealt with harshly. ”

    That is disingenous. That paper, like Minister Power and many other critics, have routinely suggested that criminal defence lawyers pressure their clients to plead not guilty in order to make the lawyer more money, yet when the opposite suggestion is made then suddenly the lawyers are upright and ethical? So only private criminal legal aid providers are dishonest, eh?

    How convenient.

    EDIT:

    alex, when you say “As an aside a potential down side of the legal aid changes will be an increase in self represented litigants. This will slow down and clog courts and thus add to cost. ” you are correct. This is already the case in the UK and it is costing them a fortune in wasted Court time. Ask any NZ judge whether they want an increase in self-represented litigants and they will look at you in horror.

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  15. quirky_username (22 comments) says:

    It is difficult to argue that this is a cost saving measure – According to a press release from the Criminal Bar Association, the average cost for a criminal case carried out under legal aid is $1343 whereas the average cost for a criminal case carried out by the PDS is $1612. Interestingly, the PDS deal with a lower number of more complex therefore high expense cases than those dealt with by private legal aid providers.

    Nick R – I share your fears in respect of bulk funding leading to pressuring people to plead guilty.

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  16. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    1. Can someone please point out where the hell this gravy train is. I want some.
    2. Why are legal aid lawyers not allowed to strike/work to rule for more money? Everyone else is. And can anyone show me another profession that is still paid the same hourly rate as in 1990?
    3. Why is the law society meant to clean up the mess that no-one can identify, including Beazley, except by hearsay and innuendo?
    4. Why has LSA done nothing to maintain standards for all these years (despite repeated offers of assistance from the Law Society)?
    5. Why does it cost an average of $1300 for a criminal legal aid case, $1800 for a family case, $3800 for civil but $108,500 for Treaty?
    6. Do you really want your freedom in the balance for $1,300?

    At the end of the day it is naive to think anyone gives a shit about lawyers or has more than a passing interest in the rule of law and right to a defence so there is only one choice left and that is to make it as hard as possible for Power to destroy the independant bar.

    The figures I have seen show that the PDS is not cheaper, subject to churn (so no consistency of counsel) and, let’s face it, will be an easy target for non-increased funding. Welcome to a world where only those who can afford it can get a defence. I think it is also called a police state.

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  17. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    Actuall F E Smith (and I broadly agree with you on the main issue) I think the incentives for a private criminal lawyer to have a not guilty plea and a public defender to aim for “guilty” are broadly similar if we assume self-interest trumps professionalism.

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  18. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    Over 90% of charges are answered by a plea of guilty. Did you get that??? Over 90%!!!! The fact is that we have a system where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The main part of that is ‘proven guilty’. If the Crown/Police cannot prove the person is guilty, then the defendant should not be convicted. AT ALL.

    Contrary to what most people seem to believe, the Police often charge innocent people with crimes. I am not saying it is a majority, but it is quite common. Other times they charge guilty people but don’t have the evidence sufficient to convict them.

    And sometimes defendants are so bloody minded that they will ignore their lawyer telling them they are screwed and not plead just for the hell of it.

    No FES. People don’t get it. And unfortunately for the last decade lawyers have been kidding themselves that logic and reason would win out. Labour ignored John Marshall for years before a final gesture of an increase and Power delights in being enemy number one in the profession (well common law anyway).

    So direct action is the last hope.

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  19. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Kiwigreg, true, except that the public don’t realise that on most cases (i.e. the small ones) the legal aid lawyer doesn’t get paid until the end. Which means waiting 6 or more months for your money. Give me a guilty plea any day. Less money, but at least I get it now!

    GPT, all good questions, and all relevant, let’s see about an answer or two:

    1. No idea, but I want on as well, please.

    2. Because I think the independent contract answer is correct. The correct solution is to refuse to renew the contract. Imagine if the government suddenly had to deal with the sort of chaos that would bring about, especially in the family arena.

    3. The Law Society cannot clean up the mess; it was created by successive governments and the LSA and only they have the power to clean it up. With regards the Bazely point, you are absolutely correct that there was no actual evidence at all in her report, and her point about lawyers ‘gaming’ the system was merely anecdotal. Moreover, her number of ‘about 200′ doing the gaming was a guess only, and most of that number she restricted to Manakau and surrounds. This entire reform is being predicated on no actual proof whatsoever.

    4. Because they kept on saying it was the Law Society’s role, when in fact the Law Society had no legal means to play the role because the contracts were, as pointed out, between the individual practitioner and the LSA. It was entirely the responsibility of the LSA to address if there were problems. I think it is telling that the only people who have lost their LSA contracts are three in Auckland who are accused of fraud. So where are the rest, Mr Power?

    5. Because the Treaty is where the gravy train is parked? No idea. But going on your figures, why isn’t the government concentrating on creating a Civil Legal Aid Service and a Family Legal Aid Service before creating a PDS?

    6. No.

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  20. thas (60 comments) says:

    @ FE Smith and GPT1 – or a Treaty Legal Aid Service?

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  21. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    No chance of that happening, thas, as it is the only part of legal aid that the big firms actually get involved in!

    But have a look at the charts and you will see that the biggest money makers are all doing either Treaty or Civil legal aid, but there is no move to reform those areas.

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  22. queenstfarmer (742 comments) says:

    @FE Smith & KiwiGreg, there is a financial benefit to a legal aid lawyer in continuing a case. There is not, as far as I can see, a financial benefit to PDS lawyers in pushing for a quick “guilty” – if anything, they’d do themselves out of a job!

    But in this regard legal aid lawyers are in the same position as private lawyers – a financial benefit also accrues to private-sector lawyers when a client continues a case (though a key difference is that the client is paying with his or her own money).

    It would be very unfair, to say the least, to the vast majority of lawyers (legal aid and private) to suggest improper motives as a result (though that Wellington barrister stooped so low). But the legal aid system has been rorted, and hence I agree with the editorial that the few have ruined it for the many, and DPF that the status quo needed to change.

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  23. thas (60 comments) says:

    Does anyone know if successful Treaty settlements require repayment of legal aid funds to the LSA? (as the “semi-poor” must repay LSA over time for their legal costs).

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  24. alex Masterley (1,489 comments) says:

    Thas, I was asking myself that same question. I suspect not.

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  25. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    Clearly National is laying the groundwork for, for example, the re-establishment of the Ministry of Works, as there are many examples of where private companies are making profits from contracting to the government. As has been proven from Russia to North Korea to Cuba, the government is best able to provide these services without a drain on the fisc to fund someone else’s profit and will provide an equal or superior service. Without wasteful competition the economy will drive forward into a brave new era.

    The problem with legal aid was not the private provision of the service, it was the fact the person consuming the service wasnt paying for it. Inevitably this leads to over-consumption and a disconnect from the pricing signals of the market. Quite how you resolve this issue when the service is access to justice and the consumer has (at least in theory) no money is beyond me however.

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  26. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    @ queentstfarmer Not at all. They will be under-resourced and over-stretched. Their managers will assess them on things like cases cleared. Their personal incentives will be entirely around quick clearance (I’m not for a second trying to impugn their professionalism just pointing out the incentives).

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  27. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    @ thas in fact the only treaty settlements I have reviewed have included a cash payment from the Crown to cover the claimants costs never seen one the other way around.

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  28. thas (60 comments) says:

    So the National government is betting that a monolithic bureaucracy will deliver more efficient and inexpensive outcomes than a host of small businesses runnning on the profit motive. Good to see where their ideological allegiance lies, and what could go wrong?

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  29. thas (60 comments) says:

    @KiwiGreg – thanks. So absolutely no incentive to keep costs down, in fact rather the opposite.

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  30. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    Well I dont claim to have reviewed more than a small number of settlements so be careful of my sample size!

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  31. KH (687 comments) says:

    Seems there are a lot of lawyers in this thread. And protesting a bit to much.
    As for the rates paid. And that you think you should get out of it. Well you are welcome. Please do.
    ……….# FE Smith at 2.42 points out this change does not affect family court work. OK that’s true. But it should. Most of the observation about lawyers troughing there on legal aid that I have heard have came from other Lawyers.

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  32. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Kiwigreg and Thas, couldn’t have put it better myself. The PDS claims to be cheaper at the moment (so long as it doesn’t do high cost cases), but it is a government department and once it is firmly established it won’t have the incentive to do things on the cheap, will it?

    queenstfarmer, don’t forget that criminal defence lawyers don’t have an unlimited budget to do a case. They are assigned a certain number of paid hours with which to work on a case. The norm, for cases that go all the way to a hearing, is 5 hours prep plus hearing time. An average hearing in summary criminal jurisdiction is between 1 and 2 hours, so let’s say 7 hours all up. That is paid at about $100 per hour, including GST. If you do, say, 7 hours preparation, then you have just done 2 hours for free. Now, the law society did calculations the other year that came up with an average profit for a small-medium firm of about $10 per hour post GST but pre-tax. So those 2 free hours eat all of your profit and you are doing the case at a loss.

    Now you understand why most law firms in NZ have got out of doing criminal work and ‘encouraged’ those practitioners who wish to undertake criminal defence to go to the separate bar. Which is a good thing, as it allows the Government and the public access to a specialised, competent group of lawyers, expert in the field. There will always be poor performing lawyers, same as doctors, accountants etc. But I can say from observing the separate Bar in two other jurisdictions that the NZ bar is the equal to that of the UK or Australia when it comes to criminal defence work.

    So when you say that criminal legal aid providers have an incentive to prolong their cases, the answer is that you are only half right. They have an incentive IF the LSA agrees to provide them with more paid preparation hours. If the LSA don’t (and they often don’t) then you do the work for free. And you really do the work, as the Court expects you to prepare fully regardless of how many hours of work you are being paid for.

    EDIT: and the Labour government put in place costs recovery procedures, but the LSA is really crap at following through with them. I have lost count of the number of times I have received a letter from the LSA saying “we have lost contact with your client, can you please tell us where they are”. Ha! As if we could keep track of them! Or even care to keep track of them!!!

    Anyway, how do you really recover from beneficiaries?

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  33. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    PDS will have a limited budget to do cases – there will be every incentive to push a guilty plea.

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  34. Fonzie (2 comments) says:

    FE Smith: How do you account for the PDS having a 34% conviction rate for serious offences when the private legal aid lawyers (like you) have a 50% conviction rate. I wonder if this is a result of the PDS system offering better systems and more collegiality and support and thus allowing better professional development than some ‘private’ legal aid lawyers who can get a bit isolated in their practices.

    I think some of your assumptions about the PDS are misplace, for example, I understand the PDS has no qualms about being involved in the Operation 8 case and lawyers from the PDS have been involved at various points (although I understand none are presently).

    Lastly, I know a number of excellent defence counsel who do very little legal aid (ie 5-10% of their total caseload) and do very nicely out of private fees alone. The lawyers that cannot survive without legal aid are probably no real loss to the Bar. People will still pay money for good lawyers but they expect something a bit better than most legal aid lawyers are used to providing on the legal aid peanuts.

    That’s the real problem with legal aid: paying peanuts has made legal aid lawyers continually cut corners for economy and they have (over many years) become conditioned to thinking that the ‘cut corners’ approach is fine and actually meets the standards of a ‘fearless advocate’. Most lawyers brought up on legal aid could not perform to the more exacting demands of a fee paying client and they never will. This huge gap in competence shows up regularly when you have large multi-accused trial where one or two defendants hire private counsel and the rest hire legally aided counsel.

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  35. seanmaitland (455 comments) says:

    F E Smith – the fact is that the Legal Aid system has been hugely inefficient, has been ‘gamed’ by private firms to milk money out of it, and was too expensive. You guys were given an opportunity to sort it out and didn’t. The status quo was not working and was costing an arm and a leg, and it had to be changed.

    Additionally, I personally know 4 lawyers working for one of the PDS’s in Auckland, and your suggestions about them having incentives to clear cases as fast as possible or to get through as much work as possible is absolute rubbish and is completely unsubstantiated.

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  36. Jeff83 (770 comments) says:

    Low and behold the private sector is not the most efficient form from a tax payer perspective…..never would of guessed. There are downsides of having a PDA though instead of legal aid, in other countries PDA lawyers are not exactly known to be the best of the bunch. I would of supported a more gradual approach, i.e. legal aid is only avaliable to those with no record, other wise you have the PDA. Presumption of innoncence and all that is a cornerstone of how our legal system works.

    On a seperate note lets hope National realises this in something which is much more important, Pharmac, when deciding whether to sell our health system down the drain or not in free trade talks.

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  37. berend (1,630 comments) says:

    DPF: “It is somewhat ironic that a National Government is partially nationalising part of the justice sector, but I thinks the changes are necessary.”

    Yes, no doubt. Nationalising is good. Because John Key does it.

    Still happy with the direction National Party voters?

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  38. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Jeff83, the private sector remains the best and most efficient method of providing legal services in this field. The fact is that this is no so much about costs as it is control. The Minister has no evidence whatsoever that this will save money, with the Bazely report not providing anything that could be called concrete. Indeed, the biggest criticisms in the Bazely report were directed toward the LSA and the Courts. The lawyers came in third, although that is not what you would think if you listened to Simon Power or the dead tree press.

    The PDS costs more than the private sector on a per case basis, even without taking on the big cases (which the PDS shuns). If you gave PDS lawyers some big cases they would be even more inefficient.

    This is about putting the defence bar under the control of the Ministry of Justice.

    That said, I do support dis-establishing the Crown Solicitors network and creating a Crown Prosecution Service. That view is not based so much on efficiences as idealogy and practicality.

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  39. seanmaitland (455 comments) says:

    F E Smith – care to cite your references on the cost of PDS vs private? From what I’ve heard its the complete opposite.

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  40. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    KH – so you are saying that lawyers are not allowed to complain of underpay and removal of work?

    Putting aside all the arguments about rule of law and adequate defence do you really think lawyers can “trough it” on the same hourly rate as 1990?

    Mallard whinged about how how his stupid charge re. belting Tau cost him around $20k. On legal aid would have got about $330 (I can’t remember post GST amount).

    Fair?

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  41. Johnboy (14,876 comments) says:

    Seeing we pay so much in student loans to create a plethora of lawyers instead of the engineers and scientists we really need FES (because you fellows have created the laws that have enabled you to charge exorbitant rates to decipher said laws) what say you that we reduce lawyers hourly rate to $15/hr forthwith.

    Most of the people you represent (apart from the few really successful crims) would I suspect think that a regular income of $600 a week for 40 hours wasn’t a bloody bad screw. :)

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  42. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    FES – the Criminal Bar Association has accounting evidence to suggest that the PDS costs more. Although such information is treated as next to treason by PDS and apologists if discussed…

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  43. CYS (3 comments) says:

    NZLS doesn’t want a fight. So it is leaving it to the Criminal Bar Association. So much for the NZLS’s ‘representative’ role…. Meanwhile the DomPost thinks that training/supervision will be better if done by the PDS? Why? I recall a meeting where Sandy Baigent (and others from the LSA) had a very strange idea about what supervision actually meant. Maybe it was out of context and I shall try to give her and them the benefit of the doubt. … I would like to see some guarantee that PDS lawyers retain the right to criticise the LSA, justice system, legal aid, government, and anything else involving the rule of law. That would be a bare minimum towards respecting their independence as lawyers. It is the least that NZLS could push for.

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  44. Johnboy (14,876 comments) says:

    I suspect that FES is a greedy little man who has sucked a lot of cash out of the lax legal aid system and is trying to protect his comfy lifestyle from the forces of economy.

    My heart bleeds for you FES. :)

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  45. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Johnboy, the politcians make the laws, not the lawyers. The legal profession isn’t nearly as powerful as you might think.

    And most of the criminal defence bar work far more than 40 hours per week. Of course, we don’t commit crimes, either. We go to university for at least 4 years so perhaps you should consider our qualifications and the like before you compare us to the unskilled people we usually represent?

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  46. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    Johnboy don’t bother with the smiley. If you think being thoroughly objectionable and insulting makes your point fine – but don’t pretend it’s a laugh. It is not. You are wrong, offensive and making shit up for no apparent reason other than to justify your prejudices.

    I have yet to see you use a single piece of evidence. Abuse is a poor substitute.

    Just to be clear your comments suggest you to be both stupid and morally challenged.

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  47. Johnboy (14,876 comments) says:

    “Johnboy, the politcians make the laws, not the lawyers.”

    You lie in your first utterance FES. The politicians heed the law commision. Since bloody Judge Jefferies the Politicians and your mob have worked hand in glove. Every law that has been enacted has been to the benefit of your lot.

    So you have learned rote at a shithole like Vic for a whole four years! What a learned fellow you are.

    You don”t commit crimes! (except say Renshaw and Edwards perhaps, and what was the name of Mr. Asia’s tart again—I’ve forgotten. Never mind. :) )

    But you of course are a fucken good sort of bloke compared to the sad unskilled arse holes you make your exorbitant incomes off that we pay for.

    What a wonderful, remunerative cycle you have got going for you. No wonder you are shitting yourselves at the thought of reform. Hell accountability might have to added to your stressful four year course. :)

    You should heed Margot. “F. E. Smith is very clever, but sometimes his brains go to his head”. :)

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  48. Johnboy (14,876 comments) says:

    GPT1: You are right. Fuck off. :)

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  49. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    Very good. My point has been proven. Tottle off now Johnboy and leave the adults alone.

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  50. Johnboy (14,876 comments) says:

    You are an irrelevancy at the moment GPT1. Take my earlier advice at 10.58. :) :)

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  51. Johnboy (14,876 comments) says:

    Your times up FES. I’m off to the scratcher. At least I suspect you are a half decent lawyer if such a beast is possible. :)

    GPT1 is obviously a pathetic little tosser who needs a few more years of conveyancing practice at say Vic or whatever. :)

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  52. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    I didn’t go to Vic, Johnboy.

    Anyway, are you seriously suggesting that because my clients would be happy to earn what I do then I should not be allowed increases in my rate of pay from time to time? No? So because beneficiaries would think that $600 a week is pretty good then perhaps you would like to suggest that to the politicians on their $100,000 plus a year? Or the Police, who start on $50,000 or so once they graduate police college? Or maybe the doctors, starting on even more than that as first years? Or even the accountants, whose first years get more than many lawyers who have been working for 4 or 5 years?

    Your politics of envy won’t get you any friends here, and nor will it ever be a clinching argument (except in Bolshevik Russia, Maoist China, Castro’s Cuba… well, you get the idea)

    But what do you actually say? Let’s see:

    “You lie in your first utterance FES.”

    I don’t lie. To call me a liar says that you know for a fact that I am saying something I know not to be true. That is offensive, as well as being untrue.

    “The politicians heed the law commision.”

    Not all the time. And the Law Commission didn’t play a part in the re-organisation of legal aid at the end of the 90s. Nor did it set up the justice system, which was formalised into its current form in the Judiciature Act of 1908, well before the Law Commission was created. Moreover, the politicians routinely ignore the Law Commission (as they should) and do whatever they want. The Law Commission is a research and advisory body, it is not an advocacy group.

    “Since bloody Judge Jefferies the Politicians and your mob have worked hand in glove. Every law that has been enacted has been to the benefit of your lot.”

    Since that far back, eh? So when criminal defence lawyers succesfully defended the accused in the Treason Trials of 1794, to the horror of the government, you are saying that was planned in concert with that same government, do you? When lawyers defended the Waihopai vandals, that was in concert with the government, was it?

    When the last Labour government removed the Privy Council from the NZ landscape, over the objections of the lawyers, that was in concert as well was it?

    And when the government enacted ACC in the early 1970s, at a stroke taking out 50% of the law profession’s work, that was for our benefit as well, was it?

    Johnboy, you are ignorant. And, given your uncouth abuse of GPT, you are not worth taking any notice of. Your arguments are false and you ruin your own reputation by your abuse.

    “You don”t commit crimes! (except say Renshaw and Edwards perhaps, and what was the name of Mr. Asia’s tart again—I’ve forgotten. Never mind. :)”

    No, I don’t commit crimes. From time to times lawyers do. Renshaw and Edwards were very much the exception, not the rule. And Karen Soich was never convicted of any crime, other than stupidity. Having relationships with crims is never smart.

    But some policemen commit crimes, some politicians commit crimes, some accountants commit crimes, some doctors commit crimes etc etc. But I say once again, that I don’t.

    “you of course are a fucken good sort of bloke compared to the sad unskilled arse holes you make your exorbitant incomes off that we pay for.”

    Yes, I am a good sort of bloke. So are many of my clients. I have represented people from multi-millionaires down to the homeless and many in-between. Many have been good blokes. What is your point?

    Anyway, many All Blacks make a lot more than I do for playing sport. At least I do something to help others.

    “What a wonderful, remunerative cycle you have got going for you. No wonder you are shitting yourselves at the thought of reform. Hell accountability might have to added to your stressful four year course. :)”

    Actually, it isn’t the money. I can earn a great deal more (and shall) practicing in other areas of law. But I (and my colleagues) work hard for our money. Give us that, at least.

    But, like I said, you are an irrelevance.

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  53. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    FES, I can only assume you bothered for the edification of any poor soul who could be bothered pottering through Johnboy’s rants? Strange lad.

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  54. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    GPT, you know I can be persistent when the mood takes me. It has helped a fair bit in pre-trials…

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  55. alex Masterley (1,489 comments) says:

    I get the impression Johnboy failed law one and consequently has a chip on his shoulder.

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  56. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    What is not defensible is the complete inequality between prosecution and defence.

    Prosecution gets an open cheque paying maximum rates.

    Defence gets fuck all paying minimum rates.

    Total injustice. Perhaps somebody can explain how that leads to a fair and just outcome..

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  57. Brian Marshall (187 comments) says:

    Q: What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?
    A: A good start.
    It’s human right to be able to get legal representation if you are charged with a crime and go to trial.
    It’s not a human right that society has to pay for it. Just more BS socialist dogma that gets the lawyers snouts into the public funds trough.

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  58. KH (687 comments) says:

    I don’t agree with much of what the lawyers say on this blog as they defend their position.
    But I am disgusted at the abusive rants out of the likes of Johnboy.

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  59. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    @ Brian – if it’s a right then who IS going to pay for it if the accused just cant?

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  60. GPT1 (2,087 comments) says:

    So Brian you believe in a police state? The taxpayer should fund the coercive action of the state in denying freedom to its some of its citizens but should not fund the due process to ensure (as best as possible) that there is good cause for such detention?

    And dv victims should not have any support to apply for a protection order? Or the falsely accused to defend one. Or the person who’s ex partner has just taken their children out of the country should only be allowed to get them back if they have money?

    Do you even think before you write or just congratulate yourself at getting another lawyer joke out there?

    VTO – you are quite right re. the inequality. The Crown don’t quite have an open cheque but the rates are higher and they have their own gophers to do all the grunt work. You and I call them the police.

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  61. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    I respect lawyers more than economists. Economists are the ones doing more harm to society than say lawyers. Economic & financial collapsed from countries around the world as history has shown us, had been caused by misguided economic philosophies of economists (leftist ideologies).

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  62. seanmaitland (455 comments) says:

    F E Smith – I know four PDS lawyers in the Auckland region and the assumption (as thats all it is) that they have incentives and/or are coerced into getting through cases cheaply/pleading guilty is complete and utter rubbish.

    Also, do you care to cite your unbiased references over the cost of similar cases for PDS/private?

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  63. queenstfarmer (742 comments) says:

    @ KiwiGreg:

    “Their managers will assess them on things like cases cleared. Their personal incentives will be entirely around quick clearance “

    Well if you set a system up to fail, it will fail. Has such silly “criteria” has been announced, or is it just your doom-and-gloom opinion?

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  64. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Sean Maitland, I haven’t been ignoring you, I have actually only just noticed a number of comments on here. I don’t know how I missed them before.

    Just to answer your question, that is not actually my argument nor GPT’s argument. Rather, it is the reverse of the argument used by Simon Power, the media and many commenters on this blog, namely that defence lawyers are ‘incentivised’ to stretch out proceedings as long as possible in order to earn more money. That view is one based on ignorance of the LSA grant scheme, but for some reason it is accepted as fact. GPT and I (and other lawyers who frequent this blog) have simply turned it around.

    In no way do I think that the PDS lawyers would breach their ethical obligations and pressure people to plead guilty in order to save money. Just like I do not believe that those at the private defence bar would pressure their clients to plead not guilty in order to make money, which is an accusation that has been made numerous times both here and elsewhere.

    GPT and I are just pointing out that it is possible, given, as I said, the reverse assumption seems to be accepted as fact.

    And my references to costs are taken from the Criminal Bar Association and NZ Law Society documentation. I will see if I can track them down.

    Johnboy, I have just noticed the ‘greedy little man’ jibe from last night. You really are obnoxious, arent’ you?

    Fonzie,

    “How do you account for the PDS having a 34% conviction rate for serious offences when the private legal aid lawyers (like you) have a 50% conviction rate. I wonder if this is a result of the PDS system offering better systems and more collegiality and support and thus allowing better professional development than some ‘private’ legal aid lawyers who can get a bit isolated in their practices. ”

    I have not seen those figures and would love to see the documentation surrounding them. I cannot believe that the PDS magically has a far better acquittal rate (especially a 66% acquittal rate) in Auckland. Even if it is correct, an acquittal can only be based on the evidence and the use made of it by the defence lawyer. Your suggestion of it being due to better systems and collegiality is impossible. Anyway, the collegiality at the Bar in NZ is, for the most part, fantastic. I am not from Auckland, so do not comment on the situation in Auckland re that subject, but I can tell you that the rest of the country is pretty damn good when it comes to collegiality. So, no, I don’t accept your premise. If the acquittal rate is that good (and that is a stunning figure) then they either have some incredibly brilliant lawyers, or else they are picking the winnable cases out of the pool. I really have no idea, but if you can point me to the documentation with the figures I might be able to form a better opinion.

    Now, to your next point

    “Lastly, I know a number of excellent defence counsel who do very little legal aid (ie 5-10% of their total caseload) and do very nicely out of private fees alone.”

    Yes, and if you live in Auckland, and to a lesser extent Wellington, that will be true. But they will be a true minority among the small minority of lawyers in NZ that practice criminal defence law. We all have private clients to a greater or lesser extent, although with counsel of choise many of us built a clientele through good service that means we got repeat work from clients who would alwasy be legally aided.

    “The lawyers that cannot survive without legal aid are probably no real loss to the Bar. People will still pay money for good lawyers but they expect something a bit better than most legal aid lawyers are used to providing on the legal aid peanuts.”

    I don’t accept that at all. Those lawyers are just as important as all of the civil and commercial lawyers who won’t touch legal aid, who think our clients are just awful and who look down on us for doing criminal work. Those are the same lawyers who never, or almost never, do pro bono work and who only work for those who can pay their high charge rates. I do pro bono work, as do many of my colleagues at the criminal bar. Indeed, a lot of our legal aid work is pro bono, working in excess of the hours we are actually being paid for. The lawyers who do exclusively legal aid won’t disappear simply because of these changes, but they will have to shift from undertaking legal aid work at rates much lower than the rest of the profession charges (well under the charge rate for most new grads in a law firm) because they believe that they are doing something good. I know most people have a hard time believing that, but it is true.

    “That’s the real problem with legal aid: paying peanuts has made legal aid lawyers continually cut corners for economy and they have (over many years) become conditioned to thinking that the ‘cut corners’ approach is fine and actually meets the standards of a ‘fearless advocate’. Most lawyers brought up on legal aid could not perform to the more exacting demands of a fee paying client and they never will. This huge gap in competence shows up regularly when you have large multi-accused trial where one or two defendants hire private counsel and the rest hire legally aided counsel.”

    And that is pure and unadulterated rubbish. We do not cut corners for economy. Most of us are now at the separate bar (which is a good thing, in my view. NZ should separate the professions, to have barrister or solicitor, not both) and our costs are lower than in a firms, but not non-existent. Further, your allegation that legal aid lawyers are far less competent than privately funded lawyers is incredibly insulting, as well as being very untrue. I have travelled overseas and seen barristers in action in other jurisdictions. I can honestly and knowingly say that the legal aid lawyer is on a par with any barrister anywhere in the world. All professions have variations within their standards, but your assertion is just pure, prejudiced rubbish. I know of a number of QCs that undertake legal aid work. I know of a number of senior lawyers that rank among NZs best advocates that happily do legal aid work. Are you suggesting that they are less competent than privately funded advocate? Many of my colleagues undertake both private and legal aid work mixed- are they somehow more competent when doing private work than when doing legal aid work?

    What about the big firms that do Treaty legal aid? Or the barristers that take on civil legal aid? Are they somehow less able?

    Your views as expressed are pure, elitest, poppycock.

    “Most lawyers brought up on legal aid could not perform to the more exacting demands of a fee paying client and they never will.”

    I mean, seriously, read that rubbish and hang your head in shame. It is an insult and is totally wrong, showing an ignorance of the profession and the subject that really renders the rest of what you say void.

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  65. Brian Marshall (187 comments) says:

    GTP1, no I don’t support a police state. I don’t support lawyers feeding on public funds, nor the need to compel the members of society to fund others quite often rubbish court cases. I support the rule of law and to be able to get redress from tort action.
    I support for individuals freedom. Quite the opposite to what you are projecting on me.

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  66. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    From the LSA second interim report

    -PDS cases were much more likely than private cases to plead
    guilty at their first plea, but by the end of the case there was
    little difference in plea
    -Jury cases made up a greater proportion of private cases than
    PDS cases
    -The conviction rate did not differ significantly between PDS
    and private providers

    I also note that overall conviction rates were the same between private provider and PDS, which may allow for a lower ‘serious’ case conviction rate because the PDS would have a higher ‘less serious’ case conviction rate. I will keep looking, but later as I have stuff to do!

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  67. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Brian, what you are saying is that people who cannot afford a lawyer when the State brings charges against them should defend themselves, yes?

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  68. laworder (269 comments) says:

    Interesting discussion

    One thing Nick R said early on;

    It is simply about cost. This is fair enough – it is very difficult to control legal aid costs without rationing the supply of services. The Government can’t do that (except by tinkering round the edges, such as limiting aid for Family Court cases). It can’t really cut aid for Treaty claims without compromising its own policy for achieving settlements as quickly as possible. Civil legal aid is already hard to get. So the savings have to come from the criminal legal aid budget. The Public Defender approach is an attempt to do that effectively by bulk funding the defence.

    I do not see why some form of rationing should not be imposed on criminal legal aid actually.

    I have no problems with first/second offenders receiving legal aid, 100% funded. People make mistakes, and people have unexpected things happen to them, and I do not object to the state funding defence of people in such situations. The problem arise when having already accumulated half a dozen convictions, or 40, or 50 or a couple of hundred, they are still eligible to receive legal aid.

    To clarify my point; a couple of examples – there is an indivdual name of Llewelynn Burchell (sp) who is a relatively recent immigrant from South Africa. He’s currently doing time for assault (his third conviction for same, last one was on a Police Officer). He has a long string of convictions for fraud, threats of violence etc etc, yet he was still able to apply for legal aid to take a number of people to court for defamation not so long ago. That said, the Chief Justice is I believe close to ruling him a vexatious litigant, which will mean he will be unable to initiatate any further cases. That is a good start, but I do think it is high time the system turned off the tap altogether on any sort of State funded representation for this guy.

    And he is not the only one. Another person of a similarly litigious nature is pursuing some people I know after they exposed his long string of prior convictions for paedophilia plus drink driving resulting in death etc etc. He is receiving legal aid to hound them through the Courts…. and we are paying for it.

    I have no objection to the State funding the legal defence of someone who gets into legal difficulties, even if it is their fault. It is when they keep doing so that I believe a line need to be drawn somewhere

    Regards
    Peter Jenkins
    see http://www.sensiblesentencing.org.nz

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  69. Fonzie (2 comments) says:

    FE Smith: For the year ending March 2009, in cases of wounding with intent, aggravated robbery, supply of class A
    aggravated robbery, sexual violation, rape and murder the PDS has a conviction rate of 29% while ‘private’ legal aid lawyers like you have a conviction rate of 54%.

    http://www.lsa.govt.nz/about-us/legal-services/documents/PublicDefenceServicePilotVFManalysisMar09.pdf at page 14.

    So you conclude this must be because ‘they either have some incredibly brilliant lawyers, or else they are picking the winnable cases out of the pool’. I think we can discount ‘picking winnable cases’ for two reasons: first, research shows that lawyers are incredibly poor at predicting the outcomes of their cases, and secondly, even if you could accurately tell a winner, you could only do so at a point after which you had accepted the brief and had disclosure.

    That leaves your other conclusion that they ‘have some incredibly brilliant lawyers’. I don’t think that is the case either unless you are making that statement relative to the ‘private’ legal aid bar in which case, yes, they may seem incredibly brilliant.

    The interpretation I prefer is that they are just good competent lawyers working diligently within a new framework that has made them more effective advocates. Maybe you should work there for a while and see if it gets your acquittal rate up too.

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  70. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Don’t give me that, Fonzie, you should know better.

    Firstly, you have no idea how good or bad I am as an advocate. My success rate may be higher than the average. You simply have no idea, so going around making condescending comments just shows your ignorance.

    Secondly, you are looking at one band of 12 classifications. Look at the other 12 and be a bit more honest. Moreover, you are talking about 14 cases all up, which in the scheme of things is pretty insignificant. Go to the other end and you will see why the rates tally up as being roughly even (which they should, on the whole). That is why the PDS, the LSA and the NZLS all agree that the conviction rates are roughly the same.

    Do you care to explain why there is a 10% differential in the worst cases, in favour of the private bar? Perhaps the new framework breaks down there? Or perhaps you are using just the one that suits you?

    Then go and have a look at the time period of June to December 2006!!!! The success rates in that chart are statistically insignificant they could just as easily have changed to the exact opposite in the next 6 month period.

    Seriously, get your head out of your own rear end and come up with something more meaningful and try saying it with less condescension.

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  71. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Jonathan Temm, NZLS president, writing in the ODT:

    “The Government’s other major legal agency, Crown Law, with 198 staff, had salary and wage costs of $18.6 million in the year to June 30, 2010 – an average cost of $94,056 per person before adding in building rental, risk management/insurance, operating expenses, travel and other support costs. Law is an expensive business. ”

    Stands to reason that the PDS wouldn’t cost much less, surely?

    “An expanded national PDS – which will effectively be the largest national law firm in New Zealand with 450 staff in 11 centres – will incur all the costs private law firms do. ”

    So the largest law firm in NZ will be owned by the Government.

    “In over 90% of criminal legal aid cases, the cost to the taxpayer is less than $650 per case. Even when adding the remaining 10% of high-cost and high-profile cases, the average cost of a criminal legal aid case is $1348 (Legal Services Agency 2010 report). ”

    Surely $650 or less per case for 90% of the cases isn’t that bad. So why has there been such a big increase in recent years?

    “Major changes in 2007 increased the number of people eligible for legal aid from 750,000 to 1.2 million. The society questioned this then, pointing out what would happen with legal aid costs. The 61% cost increase in the past three years is not surprising. ”

    And, look, we told the government what would happen when they did it! But apparently the government, the media and the NZ public think the lawyers should have absorbed the increase for free!

    And, finally,

    “It is very difficult not to conclude that running a national PDS will end up far more expensive than the current “public-private” model.”

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  72. reid (15,912 comments) says:

    Why should law be an expensive business though FE? It’s not rocket science. Sure, it’s skilled, it’s critical and it’s sometimes complicated.

    But not always. In fact, quite often, it’s not. The skill sometimes is spotting the 1 in a 100 times when there’s going to be an issue but again, that’s not rocket science, corporate businesses design systems to smooth those out, all the time.

    Law has basically defied market gravity for sometime, since the 80′s in fact. Since then, the law schools have been turning out more and more graduates but lo and behold, the fees have been rising and rising. How can this possibli be? Of course in the 80′s we’d barely heard of disciplines like media law and of course various govts over the years have been extremely prolific in their legislation the all time champion I believe being our very own immediately previous 5th Liarbore govt. All of that is in play.

    Nevertheless I really do think the legal profession as a whole overplays its hand in terms of public perception. Just because you can (because you collectively have a captive market), doesn’t mean you should, doesn’t seem to be a phrase widely understood let alone applied within the anatomy of the NZLS.

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  73. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    Costs are costs, reid. Those costs are inherent in any profession and aren’t getting any less. For every fee earner you have support staff, practising costs (the practising certificate is $1300 alone) and such like that do add up pretty quickly. Accountacy firms are no different, yet nobody seems to mind when they take millions of dollars of public money to work for the Government.

    But don’t forget that much of law is specialist, especially in the commercial area. That is where the big bucks are made, with some of the big London firms nearing (and for one, exceeding) 1 billion pounds a year in turnover.

    Also don’t forget that law is a knowledge profession for the most part, working within parameters set not by lawyers but by Parliament. That is what most people forget- we don’t make the rules, but we are paid to advise our clients how to work with them to the client’s best advantage. The top tax lawyers in London charge over 3000 pounds per hour, but can save their clients many, many times that on an ongoing basis. The skill is not spotting the 1 in 100 issue, but rather in making sure there is not going to be an issue in the future.

    When you have to pay people what they are worth, what they can make elsewhere (Oz, for example, or the UK), the price goes up. I wonder whether anyone actually thinks that the PDS staff lawyers are all on $30,000 a year? Of course they aren’t. Plus they have all been issued with laptops and Blackberrys, along with a lot of other perks, all paid for by the taxpayer.

    Most of what lawyers do is outside the public perception. That is the way most of us like it.

    Criminal lawyers are slightly different because of the subject matter, and because there is inherently a lot less money in it unless you are (in NZ) a Crown Solicitor.

    Oh, and I agree re the law students thing, although the Uni’s in NZ are limited to 200 law students each per year. But don’t forget that only 50% of people who graduate with a law degree ever practice, and of those there is a very high (over 50%) drop out rate within 5 years.

    That is incomplete, but it is a bit late for any more.

    EDIT: And don’t forget that Govt departments (which Crown Law is and which the PDS is) ALWAYS cost more than private practice.

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  74. reid (15,912 comments) says:

    So 200 p.a. x 4 law schools = 800 p.a. although I realise a lot go overseas. But that’s a lot. Why the hell do we need so many and how come in 10 years 8000 more lawyers hasn’t dropped the price any, as adjusted for inflation?

    Look I know most lawyers aren’t corporate lawyers and I know most lawyers work in the provinces and make what everyone else does. I know that.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love lawyers, seriously, I do. They are hired guns as Richard Prebble once said, an accurate description, not in an dishonourable but in an honourable sense. Fighting injustice. I just wish they’d be happy with baked beans round a campfire, but apparently not.

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  75. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    That’s an intake of 200 per year, reid, with 6 law schools not 4 (although I am not sure how many AUT is allowed as it is a specialist business law school, I think). Not all 200 graduate, so you are talking a lot less than 8000 law graduates over 10 years. Then, as I pointed out, less than half of those graduates will ever practice, so that is less than 4000 new lawyers over a 10 year period.

    Also as I said, there is a very high dropout rate from the profession. Law isn’t an easy job to work at for many people, with long ours and a high stress component.

    The number of lawyers has increased quite a lot in the last 10 years, though, but so has the work. Ironically, although the criminal legal aid work has increased quite a bit (and don’t forget that lawyers don’t drive that, crims and police do) the number of criminal lawyers has been slowly decreasing (and is now decreasing rather more quickly).

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