A lawyer with a $2-million lawsuit income is not making the kind of money she might expect to earn as a public defender, says a CBC News investigation.
And while her clients are getting better pay, she said, they’re still not getting as much as they might be.
“I don’t think that the lawyers are making any more money than they should,” said Deborah Rivett, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in family law.
“I think the general public is paying too much, especially for what they’re supposed to be doing.
It’s not fair.”
The Canadian Bar Association has recommended that lawyers who make more than $2,000 a year pay more in taxes, a proposal that Riveott said should be a priority for the province.
“They’re the ones who are making the biggest gains,” she said.
“If they’re not making as much, it’s not because of the lawyers.”‘
I don`t think that they should be compensated as well as they are’The Canadian Law Institute (CLI) said its annual report shows the average lawyer who makes less than $250,000 in compensation a year makes more than half as much in real dollars than the average salary of a public lawyer in Ontario.
That includes salaries for senior counsel, as well.
Rivett said she believes that the current income cap for lawyers is unfair and the province should consider lowering it.
“It seems like it is unfair,” she told CBC News.
“The current system is really unfair.
The average income of a lawyer in Canada is $150,000.
You’re talking about a lawyer who can make $2m a year.
I don`s think that it should be fair for them to make that kind of income.””
It’s not good for them because they have no money to spend,” said Rivelltt.
“It`s not a salary that’s going to put them on the road to recovery.”
The province has suggested raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, but Rivet said she has concerns about the impact on lower-income clients.
“If you`re earning less than the minimum, you`ve got to take it on the chin,” she explained.
“The bottom line is that if you`m earning less, you need to be paying more.
I think we`re just not doing that.”
The CLI is calling on the government to take the issue of lawyers earning more and making less into a priority and to review the existing income cap.
The Canadian Institute for Justice (CIJ) has called on the province to consider raising the salary cap and to create a new tax-exempt category to compensate lawyers who earn more than the current minimum wage.
“Our concern is that we`ve seen a significant increase in lawyers with less than a $200,000 salary,” said Ian MacKay, CIJ’s director of policy.
“We want to see a change in the rules, so that the tax-free income that is available to those who qualify is sufficient to meet the needs of a small, highly specialized team.”‘
We`ve all got to have a little more compassion’Rivellt said there should be no limit on lawyers earning above $1 million a year, and that the province needs to consider what additional programs it would be willing to contribute to the public defender program.
“We`re all got a little bit of compassion, we all have to have compassion, but there`s no need to make any assumptions,” she added.
“In a world where we`ll be dealing with very complex cases where we need lawyers with a lot of experience, there`ll not be enough people to handle all of the complex cases.”‘
You can`t just give away the law’In a phone interview from Ottawa, Rivefft said it`s important to understand that the public defenders are not giving away their services.
“A lot of times, they`re not in it for the money,” she says.
“They are there for the community.
They are there to be the advocates.””
The people that are getting their livelihoods from it, you can`ve give it away.
But if you think you can make a difference by making the public defense more accessible, by making sure that you have a more diverse range of people in the court, by doing something like that, I think that you can do it.”‘
If we`d gotten the same pay as lawyers, we would have a lot more money’Rivertt said that the problem of lawyers not being compensated is not limited to lawyers.
“You can’t just give it all away,” she stated.
I know I can` t talk about a bunch of lawyers.
But there are lots of lawyers.”
Rivefftt said if the province wanted to pay its lawyers more, it could change the way