Three barristers received more than half a million Euro each in criminal legal aid payments last year.
Criminal legal aid is paid by the State on behalf of people who can't afford to mount their own defence in court.
New figures released to Newstalk show the total amount paid out under the scheme increased by nearly a fifth in 2021.
The figures show that over €68m was paid out, including VAT - €11m more than the previous year.
Senior Counsel Michael J Bowman was paid €692,000 under the scheme last year, while another Senior Counsel, Padraig Dwyer, got just under €600,000.
The highest earning solicitors' firm under the scheme last year was John M Quinn's, which received €746,000.
Frank Buttimer's practice in Cork got €467,000 euro - but he told Newstalk the scheme is not lucrative for lawyers.
“I would say it is down the pecking order of income in my experience,” he said.
“I am not giving the poor mouth here but if you compare the income on a time-costed basis between what is generated in criminal legal activity as against what is generated in commercial conveyancing and related activity, I would say it is down the scales of return.”
Mr Buttimer said the payments go towards all the employees working on a case.
“It goes towards all of the solicitors time involved in the case,” he said.
“Probably a multiple solicitor commitment to generate income of that kind. Probably two or three solicitors working in the practice either full-time or a very substantial amount of their time doing that stuff.
“It also involves all secretarial and administrative time and all office outgoings.”