Low Fees push talents to other areas

20 Apr 2014

Originally published in Consultor Jurídico

There are many factors that lead a young person to choose certain profession. Undoubtedly, one of the main, if not the main, is the financial return. When this lack, you can bet that many good people will look for another area. This is what is happening in England, the lawyer vision Frederick Singarajah . The constant reduction of fees for criminal lawyers are pushing top talent to other legal professions.

Blame it on the cuts in legal aid , which became more intense since last year with the need to reduce spending to get the country out of crisis. As there is no public law in England, lawyers are responsible for serving the needy and receive government money. Much of the criminalists lives of such assistance.

Frederick Singarajah not engaged in the penalty area – he deals with Commercial Law – but close to see what has happened with colleagues. He also sees that in the near future, the proposal to reduce spending will be a shot in the foot. No money to pay a lawyer, the accused go to court alone.With this, the judgments are longer and therefore more costly.

In an exclusive interview with Counsel , Singarajah told a little of the legal profession in England and its main divisions, strange to Brazilians. In the country, the work of a lawyer is divided between two professions:  barrister, responsible for making oral arguments, and solicitor who deals directly with the customer – and is the area that should be followed by those who want to make money as a lawyer. He is a barrister, in fact, the only barrister Brazilian active in England.

Singarajah was born in João Pessoa, Paraiba mother and a father half English, half of Sri Lanka. He moved to England still in school days and all his professional life was on English soil. Still, the fact of knowing how to speak Portuguese and the knowledge that has made Brazil the reference in trade disputes involving the two countries.

The Brazilian is one of the founders of Lex Anglo-Brazil , an organization that seeks to bring lawyers of the two nations and promote mutual aid. It was he who organized a lunch for the Minister Joaquim Barbosa, President of the Supreme Court, in its rapid passage in London in January.

In the interview, Singarajah talked about the average income of the Law office, defended the importance of a lawyer representing the client in court and still disagreed on the utility of Justice TV in England. "In the Supreme Court are discussed only legal arguments. What interest the population will have it? I do not spend my free time watching television in my trials, "he said.

Read the interview:

Conjure – How is the route to becoming a lawyer in England? 
Frederico Singarajah – Here the word in English lawyer –  lawyer  – brings together more than a profession. There are two main: barrister, which is what I am, and . Solicitor who wants to turn either of the two need to get the undergraduate degree, which does not necessarily have to be in law. It can be any area, but there will have to make another conversion course which lasts one year. If the course already chosen is right, which lasts about three years, the bachelor out of college and have to choose what career you want to follow. It is in graduate school that the newly formed must choose whether to be barrister or solicitor. Once the graduate, begins the practical part. It is a kind of training required two years to receive the title of professional and it is there that the highly competitive start in the profession. After training, the newly formed still need to work under the supervision of a professional for three years to be able to walk with the next steps.

Conjure – So are three years of college, one year after, two training and three supervised work. You can almost ten years. And it's worth all this? 
Frederico Singarajah – Financially, it's much safer form as solicitor and turn a wage. Already as a barrister , you get alone with no client and no money coming in , but I have to pay a monthly fee to the council barristers .A solicitor becomes associated or office partner and starts to receive, in addition to salary, profit sharing. And the offices gain, in general, much more. The largest amount to pay 1.2 million pounds (more than US $ 4 million) per year for members. To get an idea, the average annual salary of abarrister who works in the criminal area is 60,000 pounds (US $ 220ml). So I would say if you are in the profession to make money, have a lot more chances and solicitor.

Conjure – There is a schedule of fees? 
Frederico Singarajah – For barristers, who makes all the administrative part, how to schedule the hearing and negotiate fees, it is the clerk . I am not prohibited from trading fees, but no barrister does so by convention it. The function is outsourced to the clerk.

Conjure – And it follows a table? 
Frederico Singarajah – No. He has an idea of the amount to be charged, which varies according to the experience of the barrister and the complexity of the work. Each has its price per hour and this value increases according to experience.

Conjure – I mean, there is no competition between the priceBarristers ? 
Frederico Singarajah – No.

Conjure – And among the solicitors ? 
Frederico Singarajah – Yes, but only to a point. Here there is no minimum fee scale as in Brazil, but there is a maximum table, fixing the maximum amount that can be charged. The solicitors can only exceed this value with justification. Otherwise, the court ends up reducing the amount.

Conjure – What is the difference in training between a barrister andsolicitor? What skills one has and the other does not? 
Frederico Singarajah – The barrister is an expert in oral arguments. The difficulty for Brazilians understand the British system is because, in Brazil, the civil system does not have much oral arguments the way it has in England, in the common law . In Brazil, when the lawyer examine witnesses, it does so by the judge. Says about what you want and ask the judge is asking the question to the witness. Not here. The barrister direct talks with the witness. It's almost an art to extract the desired information. It is a different skill common to the solicitor who makes a transactional work.

Conjure – Why is there this division? 
Frederico Singarajah – The reason for the division is historically and today, it may not make much sense. The profession of barrister existed for nearly 800 years. It came after the reign of Henry II, when they were approved laws to resolve disputes and end the battles. The first barristerswere priests or knights who could tell a story in a compelling way, in Latin or French, the two languages ​​used at the time. Were species of translators ofboth the language and the way of presenting the information. It survives today. The solicitors emerged after the industrial revolution to deal with conflicts such as marriage and contracts, as the Barristers , used to go to court, they did not make the transactional part. The solicitors are called so because they requested work for barristers .

Conjure – In England, which other countries have the division? 
Frederico Singarajah – Eight jurisdictions in all, all former British colonies.In the UK alone, it has England and Wales, which is a jurisdiction, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Out of here, Ireland, South Africa, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong.

Conjure – You said that this division does not make much sense today. He believes that the two careers should, over time, become one? 
Frederico Singarajah – We are heading towards the merger, but my opinion is that we will never come to a full merger. Even in the United States and Brazil, where the profession is one, there is the lawyer who makes oral arguments and the other dealing with the contract. I think this division will always survive. The barrister is also a right specialist materials and finishes required by solicitors to opinions on a given subject.

Conjure – How the two careers are heading to the merger, although not complete? 
Frederico Singarajah – The solicitor , for example, can make a course more and get the title of advocate . Then he can make oral arguments in the lower courts. But the barrister since 2012, can accept instructions from direct customer without a solicitor to broker.

Conjure – I mean, since 2012 the barrister can now look for the customers themselves? 
Frederico Singarajah – No, you can not. It is always passive. The customer must go to him. And the barrister can not do everything. I can not, for example, go to the court to deliver petitions, but I can guide the client to do so. I can not do the administrative part of the conduct of the litigation.

Conjure – The Barristers always work alone, and not in stalls, such as solicitors . Why? 
Frederico Singarajah – by regulation, barrister needs to be autonomous. I am forbidden to go work for anyone else. Once it has been learned, everything needs to be done for me. The work is 100% lonely. What I can is to work in chambers and thus divide the room costs and the secretary, for example, with my colleagues.

Conjure – How autonomous, how to deal with issues such as vacation or illness that prevents you from working? In such cases, the barrister may ask for help from a colleague? 
Frederico Singarajah – I have no vacation. For a year and a half, not even took one day to me, without answering phone and answering e-mail. I go to Brazil to work and I can take only one day to enjoy the beach in Rio de Janeiro. But my situation is different from those who are married and have families. These end up vacationing yes.

Conjure – What is the proportion of barrister and solicitor in England? 
Frederico Singarajah – has about 15,000 barristers and 150,000 solicitors.

Conjure – Why? Solicitor is a more democratic profession andbarrister , more restricted? 
Frederico Singarajah – No. It is that there is so much demand for barrister. Most of the work of a lawyer is the transactional part, dealing with contracts, family disputes, real estate transfer. We as barristers , do not do anything. Solicitor is that lawyer as Brazilians know. They associate, assemble stalls.

Conjure – But working as a barrister , complete with wig and gown, is more pompous, no? 
Frederico Singarajah – It was a very pompous profession and is still seen as well, but has changed a lot. Today there is more diversity, equality, social mobility even in the area. I'm proof of that. I am a Joao Pessoa boy who came here teenager, I was not studying at Oxford or Cambridge and here I am, walking fairly well in my profession. I had no experience of discrimination. The work is highly meritocratic. For the person who will hire you, matter if you are good at it, and not whether it is black or yellow, man or woman, young or old.

Conjure – Britain is experiencing a crisis in legal aid, with announced drastic cuts and some already implemented by the government. How has it affected the work of barristers ? 
Frederico Singarajah – I work with Public and Commercial Law, then do not do legal aid. Who is being affected even are the barristers who work with the family and the penalty area. One must understand that here, unlike in Brazil, is not public advocate. The lawyer who meets the legal aid also meets particular customer. Lawyers criminal air have most of the fees paid by the Government. Since 2004, the government has reduced the values ​​and what is happening is that the great talents are choosing other areas. Because you will take nearly ten years to get it on the market, you need to finance college and other courses, and still wants money to get married and buy a house.There is to survive all this gaining little. If you can choose another area, you will do this. The best professionals are going to other areas already ten years ago. And now the government wants to further cut the fees.

Conjure – How these cuts affect the claimants? 
Frederico Singarajah – Who does not have money to pay a lawyer just need to go to the courts to resolve their dispute alone. With a professional who understands the law and process the last half-hour hearing with a layman, just lasting an hour and a half. What the government saves with lawyer spends judge and servers court. Five years from now, probably, the cuts will end up costing more for the government.

Conjure – You can make justice without the aid of a lawyer? 
Frederico Singarajah – It is possible, but not advisable. I just explained the whole process that we just goes to form. A lay person will not understand it all in half-hour hearing.

Conjure – How is the issue of fairness between the parties when one is represented by a lawyer and the other not? It is possible for the judge to reach a fair decision? 
Frederico Singarajah – Yes, you can. The case is decided from the evidence. If your tests are excellent, the difference that the lawyer does is minimal.

Conjure – But and to gather such evidence? You do not need the assistance of a lawyer? 
Frederico Singarajah – depends. Despite all the knowledge in law, in fact, it is common sense more than anything else that counts. At least the systemcommon law . I believe the previous surviving in time are rational. So even if you do not have that legal learning, but it is an intelligent, rational and sensible person can substantiate his argument in a legal form, even without any legal education.

Conjure – What if you are not smart, rational and has no common sense? 
rederico Singarajah – Some people, even if all this is so involved with his case can not be rational and objective. That is negative. I know I'm a lawyer and I have an interest in saying that lawyers are needed, but I believe that even if I did not have a lawyer makes a difference yes. What a difference depends on the case and the person.

Conjure – The judges are prepared to deal directly with the claimants? 
Frederico Singarajah – The judge has to keep both parties in equal situations. He can not give legal advice, but may facilitate language to make it more understandable process.

Conjure – In England, the trials at first instance are made, as a rule, the so – called judges, who are lay judges. It is very different from Brazil, where the competence of lay judges is much more restricted.How do you see one judge without legal training deciding conflicts and applying punishments? 
Frederico Singarajah – Normally, decisions are taken by a group of three judges, who will not blind to the trial. They have a legal adviser who is a person with legal training to assist. In fact, what these judges are doing is todetermine facts, not the law.

Conjure – But at the time that determines whether the fact is crime, they need to enforce the law. 
Frederick Singarajah – Yes and that's where the role of legal counsel. For example: someone is accused of theft. The law states that theft is when the person was dishonest, made ​​an appropriation and this appropriation was permanent. Are the three requirements of theft law. Anyone, even without legal training can determine if there were that three requirements. It's like in juries here judge the case on appeal. The magistrates make the body of the role of judges and the legal assistant is the time of the judge, only silent.

Conjure – Lay people are no longer subject to prejudices and falling into the version of the most compelling lawyer? 
Frederico Singarajah – This is controversial and there are several theories about it. It was the Magna Carta of 1215, which guaranteed the right to a jury. Who better to decide if you committed a crime than people like you?But the system is not perfect, of course. There are theories that say that a prosecutor or a police officer, who accuse the time, start to think that everyone is guilty. This predisposition can also happen with judges. For example, he knows the lawyer of a party and knows that he would not defend someone who had done something wrong. They are human tendencies and I can not now see a system that works better and avoid these problems.

Conjure – You may notice a trend in the judiciary in virtually all of Europe to become more transparent and open to society. In England, the Supreme Court has to transmit over the Internet to read their decisions. Do you think this positive opening? 
Frederico Singarajah – Transparency is always good. Conveys confidence.Recently, I attended a lunch with the Minister Joaquim Barbosa, who said that in Brazil all the judgments of the Supreme Court are televised, including the decision of the judges. This is very strange for us here, because the whole debate between the judges is secret. And you know why? For the judges can discuss everything openly.

Conjure – It would be interesting to apply the opening of Brazil here?
Frederico Singarajah – England is not a country where corruption is a major problem. The system works well, even being secretive. For it would take telecast and further open trials? This kind of change happens only when there is a cause and at the moment there is no such cause here. The balance factor is given at the time that all judgments are published. So, in a way, it's all open, although the making of the decision is not. And the Supreme Court are discussed only legal arguments. What interest the population will have it? I do not spend my free time watching judgments on my television. I have better things to do. I am absolutely certain that the language of the courts here is clearer and simpler than in Brazil, but still are complicated discussions.

Conjure – How was the meeting with the Minister Joaquim Barbosa in London? 
Frederico Singarajah – Very good. We made ​​a presentation to him about our institution, Anglo-Lex Brazil, and I also talked a bit about the English legal system. Then the minister answered a few questions about life and his career, something very light. It was a closed event only for members of the Anglo-Lex Brazil.

Conjure – As an outsider, what image do you have of the Brazilian Judiciary? 
Frederico Singarajah – I do not have deep knowledge of the Brazilian judicial system, then my view is secular. It is a much better structure, more bureaucratic and more complicated than English. The system is slower too.Brazilians often find the fees of lawyers here expensive, but ends up costing much less in the end because the case is solved in much less time.

Conjure – The Brazilian judiciary has credibility in the eyes of English 
Frederick Singarajah – I think so, except in some individual cases such as the dispute over the Jirau dam. I believe that Brazil has work to do, but it's going in the right direction.


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