Letter: Legal fat cats

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Legal fat cats

Sir: You report that barristers "ridicule" the idea that they should earn less than pounds 200,000 a year from legal aid work ("High fees put fat cat lawyers in the dock", 18 June). You describe a process of setting and "uplifting" fees in the awareness that a review body is likely to halve the figure - still leaving huge sums of money to be found for a system which is "running out of control" ("QCs claim astonishing legal aid fees", 19 June).

May I suggest an alternative model? Clergy of the Church of England receive an allowance (stipend) designed to enable us to live "neither in poverty nor riches", currently about pounds 14,000 a year plus a tied house and good pension provision. Other income, from chaplaincies, teaching or letting a room in the house, is deducted from the stipend. We are protected from inflation but do not receive year-on-year increases.

We usually take one day off each week; the rest of out time is at the disposal of the church. We are expected to maintain a portfolio of theological, liturgical, educational, pastoral and management skills which are freely available to all parishioners.

My wife and I have lived this life for thirty years. There can be no finer or more satisfying occupation. We have raised and educated our two children without sending my wife out to work.

The tied house would not be appropriate for barristers, so let us suggest a stipend of, say pounds 40,000, plus all proper expenses, clerical staff and pension provision. The model could be emulated for all professions whose avowed purpose is the service of our fellow man, for his well-being, healing, justice and peace.

The prophet laid down the principle long ago: "What is required of you, O man, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?"


Wincanton, Somerset