Leading Birmingham law firm Challinors has been doing legal aid work for decades, and partners at the 100-year-old institution believe it is their community duty.

Of its 115 fee earners across its city centre, West Bromwich, Edgbaston and Harborne offices, 30 perform publicly-funded work exclusively.

But currently those specialists, which make up 25 per cent of the fee earners, generate only 15 per cent of the firm's income. Ten years ago that sector brought in 40 per cent.

Deputy senior partner Paul Griffiths said simple economics meant there was a shadow over the future of non-private criminal and family work at the firm.

"We've always remained committed to the idea of of publicly funded work because we see it as part of our role in the community, particularly in and around Birmingham where there is social deprivation," he said.

"But there will come a time next year when it will be very difficult to sustain this work because we will not be able to cover our costs.

"I would be fearful that we will have to reduce our committment to public funding work and if it gets very bad we will have to stop doing it altogether."

Six of Challinors' partners are leading specialists in child care law.

"We are already asking a number of partners to move into privately funded areas, for example some of our people are doing child care work, doing privately paying divorce work," said Mr Griffiths. "A lot of firms are considering pulling out specialists in that area."