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alcatraz

Legal Aid roster

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Does anyone here have experience with legal aid rosters, or some familiarity with them?

 

I'm trying to get a sense of what a junior lawyer could expect to make in their first couple of years out through legal aid. I imagine the number is very very low. Just trying to get a sense of whether that's closer to 10k a year or 30k a year.

 

If anyone has experience with or knowledge of Calgary in particular, that would be dandy.

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I think OP is talking about working on legal aid certificates, as opposed to a full time employee of Legal Aid. What sort of practice area are you looking at? I would likely be able to do some fishing around for Criminal if that is what you are talking about, civil work I would have no idea.

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That's A: Ontario, not Alberta, and B: is for staff positions, not on the roster.

 

Alcatraz - I'm afraid I can't answer that.  I did some legal aid files once upon a time.  It wasn't a whole lot, but what files I did get were a result of being in a rural area and taking files no other lawyer wanted (usually due to travel / distances).  I imagine it has to be really, really tough if you're just starting out in a big city like Calgary.  LA clients are given their choice of counsel so established LA lawyers do hoover up most of the files.

 

But when established you can definitely make more than $10-$30k though.  Once you can start stacking files some of the established lawyers really do seem to do okay for themselves.

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Does anyone here have experience with legal aid rosters, or some familiarity with them?

 

I'm trying to get a sense of what a junior lawyer could expect to make in their first couple of years out through legal aid. I imagine the number is very very low. Just trying to get a sense of whether that's closer to 10k a year or 30k a year.

 

If anyone has experience with or knowledge of Calgary in particular, that would be dandy.

I don't know the numbers but there is no way 10k is possible. You make more than that in one year on minimum wage. Without working longer than 9-5 hours. For Legal Aid to pay their lawyers a salary that equates to less than minimum wage even before you factor in the heavy hours lawyer work..... you have to think that would not stand. Even if there is no actual "hourly wage" present that is lower than the minimum amount specified by legislation.

Edited by happydude
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I don't know the numbers but there is no way 10k is possible. You make more than that in one year on minimum wage. Without working longer than 9-5 hours. For Legal Aid to pay their lawyers a salary that equates to less than minimum wage even before you factor in the heavy hours lawyer work..... you have to think that would not stand. Even if there is no actual "hourly wage" present that is lower than the minimum amount specified by legislation.

 

But... the Alberta Legal Aid system isn't paying a salary - it's payment by file. So yes, 10k is quite possible. What MP is saying is that you can earn ~10k through legal aid files but you'll have to find other clients yourself. It isn't easy as just getting your name on a list and have a slew of clients walking in through your door.

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curious - is it a true rotation, or does seniority come into play?  in areas where there are a number of lawyers do some get more files than others due to how well the legal aid office knows them-or is it just that the clients request the lawyers they know and have worked with in the past?

Edited by Rumpy

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I don't know Alberta, but in BC the general etiquette is once counsel is on a L Aid ticket for one matter, that client is "their" client unless otherwise specified. It's considered bad form to poach so you always ask the client who represented them before, if anyone.

 

The legal aid office will send a referral out if no one claims the client, but these seem to go out to a small pool of senior lawyers known to LSS. You could not build a practise by sitting around waiting for a referral. You might never get one.

 

The only times I have been called by LSS out of the blue to represent some one were when the client had already burned through half a dozen other lawyers who deal with the mentally ill, or when the strike was on and they were looking for some one to break ranks.

 

ETA: criminal files only; can't speak to other areas covered by legal aid.

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curious - is it a true rotation, or does seniority come into play?  in areas where there are a number of lawyers do some get more files than others due to how well the legal aid office knows them-or is it just that the clients request the lawyers they know and have worked with in the past?

 

Despite having been on the roster at one point I couldn't quite tell you.  There does seem to be a certain amount of favouritism within the legal aid society.  It is perhaps understandable - they know who the lawyers are that  won't turn down files, will take difficult files on when requested, and who are good at closing files.  If you think of LAS as being like a client you can sort-of understand their decisions.

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I think OP is talking about working on legal aid certificates, as opposed to a full time employee of Legal Aid. What sort of practice area are you looking at? I would likely be able to do some fishing around for Criminal if that is what you are talking about, civil work I would have no idea.

 

I'm speaking strictly about criminal legal aid certificates, and I'd appreciate whatever fishing you're interested in doing. Definitely seems confirmed that legal aid certificates in Canada have a lot in common with sunlight in the Amazon basin: the efficiency of the ecosystem ensures almost none of it gets to the bottom.

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I can't say I have any first-hand experience with this system (I'm a Crown), and I don't know Alberta. I can say a little about criminal files in Saskatchewan, where there are full-time legal aid employees, but plenty of work still ends up "farmed out" to private bar lawyers. In my area, this includes most of the files that get set for trial.

In Saskatchewan, Legal Aid pays private bar lawyers $86 per hour, up to a set maximum of hours depending on the seriousness of the file. That's obviously lower than lawyers are going to be billing private clients, but with Legal Aid you shouldn't have to worry about not getting paid, and that's worth something.

In my particular area, there are many defence counsel whose practice is primarily made up of Legal Aid and court-appointment files. They seem to do alright financially, (certainly a hell of a lot better than $10k to $30k) though they have to handle a very large volume of files to do so.
 

I get the sense that competition for this type of work is much stiffer in Saskatoon and Regina than it is in my neck of the woods, and I expect the same would be true of Calgary.

Edited by Redmen62

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I've been on the legal aid roster for ~5 months now and I've received a grand total of two files. A few others have called me up and then disappeared; I assume they decided to go with other (probably more senior) counsel. Granted this is the GTA and not Calgary, but I assume the experience would be comparable. 

 

I've also been turned down for duty counsel rotations because there were too many lawyers on the local lists.

 

My view is that a viable practice would probably require most of your work to come from private retainers, but most people with even semi-viable cases tend to gravitate towards senior lawyers, so God knows how anybody survives as a solo in their infant years. I know people manage it sometimes, but I really don't know how.

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