Chalk face is a picnic next to the mean streets of law

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the rather pathetic ramblings of your anonymous correspondent in the "Talkback" feature entitled "A crazy choice" (TES, November 8).

I am a 50-year-old solicitor with an income of Pounds 36,500 per annum plus 5 per cent contribution to a pension. The pension scheme has been going only for five years. I work on average 10 hours per day for 46 weeks of the year. I have been qualified for 27 years.

My contract provides for 25 days' holiday per year plus bank holidays. I have not taken my full entitlement of holiday for three years.

I undertake criminal work, so I am on call every day of the year. I rarely go out without a mobile phone in my pocket. Unlike a school, our work carries on 365 days per year.

My job is not secure. Another major change in the Legal Aid regulations and my employers could well opt out of criminal work, and I will be made redundant. At 50, I am unemployable at anywhere near the salary that I get now.

I know a good few solicitors in their forties and fifties who earn about the same as I do. Some earn less than that; many are sole practitioners working longer hours than I do. Some are lucky to get away from the office even for a long weekend.

At least I get paid when I am off sick, but my employers do not have access to "supply lawyers" to provide cover for my absences; nobody will do my work if I am off sick. When I get back to the office I have to clear the backlog.

An Office for Standards in Education inspection is a picnic compared with a Legal Aid Board audit. The rules and regulations governing the practice of the law are tighter than any other profession in the UK other than medicine.

Solicitors are required to undertake continuing education. We do not get Baker days; we have to make up the time when we take a day off to attend a continuing education conference.

I have to wear a suit every day; not for me the luxury of jeans and trainers.

Teaching is not an easy job, nor is it well-paid (I am married to a teacher and I have had three spells as a governor - two as a chairman of governors) but it is not that much worse than many other professions and it is dramatically better than most.

Usually I do have great sympathy for some teachers; but when I read the ill-informed rubbish from your anonymous correspondent that sympathy faded away. I hope that she is more accurate in herhis teaching.

ROGER CORBETT 11 Shire Ridge Walsall Wood Walsall West Midlands

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