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Legal Aid

posted on August 12, 2008

Law Times: Legal Aid Brain Drain

By: Robert Todd
Published: August 11, 2008
Source: Law Times

The creation of Ontario’s new Human Rights Legal Support Centre in Toronto may be good news for those facing discrimination, but the lure of dramatically higher salaries for essentially the same work has caused a brain drain of lawyers from legal aid clinics in the area. “The impact on the community in terms of access to justice has been dramatic,” says Judy Welikovitch, executive director of West Toronto Community Legal Services. Her clinic has lost both of its staff lawyers and one support worker to the legal support centre.

“It’s got to be affecting other clinics as well, because I know of at least a half-dozen other lawyers from clinics who have left for the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.”

The centre has hired lawyers from the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, the Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, the North Peel & Dufferin legal aid clinic, the Legal Aid Ontario clinic resource office, and the African Canadian Legal Clinic, says Welikovitch. All of those clinics are funded by LAO.

“That’s a lot of people to be losing from the clinic system,” she says. “Clinics provide service to the marginalized communities across the province. In order for those communities to have high-quality access to justice, we need good lawyers, we need committed lawyers.”

But, she says, “It’s gotten to the point now where we’re so uncompetitive that even the most committed of lawyers are taking second looks and leaving for other opportunities. We need to even the playing field here.”

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posted on August 12, 2008

Law Times: Raise legal aid rates, says report

By: Robert Todd
Published: August 1, 2008
Source: Law Times

Lawyers who accept legal aid certificates got some more ammunition in their battle for higher rates in Prof. Michael Trebilcock’s review of the Ontario system.

The University of Toronto Faculty of Law professor recommends the province create “initial equilibrium” in the legal aid tariff by raising the rate to the range of $110 an hour. Anything less than that, says Trebilcock, “seriously risks further attenuating the commitment of the private bar to the legal aid system and will exacerbate the unfairnesses and inefficiencies in the existing tariff structure.”

He concedes that amount would disappoint many in the system, noting the previous Holden-Kaufman task force recommended a 2007 equivalent of $120-$160 per hour. Lawyers in the system currently get from $73 to $92 an hour.

Trebilcock also notes more should be done to make legal aid available to the middle class.

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Content last modified on August 12, 2008, at 08:03 AM EST