SIX FIRMS of solicitors were paid more than $1 million each in taxpayer-funded legal aid in a year while 20 others each raked in more than $500,000, startling new figures reveal.
In a graphic illustration of the legal aid gravy train, the Ministry of Justice figures show total payments to legal aid providers in the year to 30 June 2015 were up 4.5 per cent on the previous year to $130.216 million, from $124.58 million paid in the previous year.
Payments made in the latest year were just behind the total payments in the year to 30 June 2013 ($130.259 million) and a long way behind the total payments made in the year to 30 June 2012, when they totalled $148.3 million.
The payments – which are GST exclusive – include the fees of listed providers, including those claimed on behalf of other listed providers, and disbursements for general office costs, travel costs, and special disbursements, which include fees for agents, expert witnesses, forensic tests, interpreters and special reports, such as medical or valuation reports.
During the year to 30 June 2015, payments were made to 1224 listed providers – down slightly from the 1240 in the previous year. This meant the average payment per provider was $106,385.58, compared with $100,467.92 the previous year.
The median payment (received by the middle provider) was $68,147.22. Six providers received payments totaling over $1 million, and 20 received payments totaling between $500,000 and $1 million.
There were 793 providers – 65 per cent of the total – who received payments of less than $100,000, and 345 of these (28 per cent of all providers who received a payment) received payments of less than $30,000.
The highest payment was to Wellington firm Cooper Legal who received a staggering $1.373 million for the year to June. Read more »