COVID shutdown taking toll on many lawyers

LAWYERS

The shutdown of much of the country's court system due to the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a financial toll on many lawyers.

And they say law societies are not doing enough to help.

While trial lawyers are perhaps most affected, many in the trade say other sectors -- such as real estate -- are also feeling the pinch.

Small firms and relative newcomers, they say, are most exposed.

Godfred Chongatera, a lawyer in a small three-person mixed practice in Halifax, estimates his overall business has fallen 35 to 40 per cent.

Declining revenues and work have meant having to lay off two full-time staff.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada did not respond to a request for comment.

But an official with the Law Society of Ontario says its efforts to help include liaising with the federal government regarding its recent announcement of the expansion of the Canada Emergency Business Account.

Law society directors, known as benchers, have also decided to take no pay for governance work for the time being.

Bill Trudell, chairman of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, says fees should be forgiven.