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Adapting for the aftermath

They say a rising tide lifts all boats — sometimes not all at once. And a falling tide leaves some boats on the rocks sooner than others.

The economy has cratered. Unemployment stands at 7.8 per cent; Canada shed a million jobs in March alone. Pandemic measures meant to save lives and prevent the collapse of the health care system are creating deeper divisions between haves and have-nots — between those who still have jobs and those who don’t, between those who can work from home and those who have to risk exposure to the virus to deliver “essential” services.

You can see a similar divide forming in the legal community. Some firms, such as those that focus on corporate or real estate law, are riding out the pandemic doing something close to business-as-usual. Some are even reporting new business coming out of the pandemic itself.


Michael Spratt said his small criminal law firm is looking at an 80 per cent drop in revenue if the courts remain closed for three months or more. His firm is braced for it, he added — “It’s a pretty lean operation. Salaries and rent are the fixed costs. The four partners, we’re all good friends and we’ve been spreading the work around.”

But pandemic-driven court closures could do immense damage among smaller firms that depend on court access, he said — and that could lead to an actual shortage of affordable legal services, a “hollowing-out of the defence bar in Canada.”

“That would have severe negative consequences for the administration of justice,” he said. “In Ontario, this comes on the heels of the provincial government’s cuts to the legal aid program.

“Even before the pandemic hit, we saw a lot of defence lawyers leaving the profession to join government departments or other positions outside of private practice. The pandemic is only going to make that trend far worse.”


Read Doug Beasley’s full article: CBA National

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