Socialization of Legal Services

November 27, 1950

Report Outline
Access to Justice for the Common Man
Legal Aid for Low-Income Groups
Services for Persons of Moderate Means
British Legal Aid and Advice System

Members of the legal profession in the United States are giving close attention to the new system of “socialized law” which came into limited operation in Great Britain the first week in October. Although the British Legal Aid and Advice Act does not socialize legal services to the extent that health services have been brought under government financing and control, it will go a long way toward removing the cost barriers which have heretofore obstructed access by the ordinary citizen to the skilled legal assistance often needed in a modern industrial society.

Whereas most medical, hospital, dental and other health services are available without charge to all who choose to use them, free legal service is limited to persons in the lowest income group. Persons in the next higher bracket are required to pay for counsel according to financial ability, the government making up the difference between their contributions and lawyers' charges.

In further contrast to the national health service, the legal aid system is being administered by the legal profession itself—the Law Society, of which 90 per cent of all British solicitors are members, with the assistance of the Bar Council, representing the barristers or trial lawyers. Area committees of the Law Society have set up panels of lawyers willing to act for persons whose financial need is certified by public assistance authorities. The client's relation with the lawyer he selects is the same as if he were footing the whole bill. Clients' contributions and government appropriations go into a Legal Aid Fund, administered by the Law Society, from which participating lawyers draw 85 per cent of their normal charges for each task performed.

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