A leading barrister says official figures produced in the wake of cuts in legal aid provision for civil litigation are "striking".
Nicholas Lavender QC, chairman of the Bar Council - which represents barristers, said the fall in the number of civil cases where legal aid had been provided was worse than the Government had predicted.
He said it was "no wonder" that one Labour MP had described the situation as a "nightmare".
Mr Lavender, who gave evidence on the effect of legal aid cuts to the House of Commons' Justice Committee earlier this summer, has outlined his concerns in the latest issue of legal magazine Counsel.
"The figures just published by the Legal Aid Agency are striking," he said.
"Legal aid provided legal help in 205,617 new family cases in 2012/13 but only 42,798 in 2013/14."
He said the fall relating to social welfare cases was worse.
"The Government predicted a fall of about 65% from 2009/10 levels, but the actual fall has been more that 80%," he added.
"No wonder that one of the MPs on the Justice Committee, John McDonnell, said: 'It's not a problem, it's a nightmare'."