Fees too low, says lawyer

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Fixed fees for le­gal aid providers will dis­cour­age se­nior and ex­pe­ri­enced lawyers from pro­vid­ing the ser­vice, a Porirua law spe­cial­ist says.

Un­til July 1, le­gal aid providers charged the Min­istry of Jus­tice by the hour, but the min­istry now pays lawyers a fixed amount per case, re­gard­less of hours worked.

The fees dif­fer de­pend­ing on the court and the task, but range from $100 for re­port­ing to a fam­ily court client to $2800 for pre­par­ing cases for a crim­i­nal hear­ing.

When the fees are bro­ken down into an hourly rate, it doesn’t even cover a se­nior lawyer’s over­heads, Fam­ily Law Spe­cial­ists direc­tor Ca­tri­ona Doyle says.

‘‘Se­nior lawyers aren’t go­ing to do it.

‘‘You can’t do the pro­fes­sional job for that amount of money,’’ she says.

Fixed fees ig­nore whether the cir­cum­stances of a case are sim­ple or com­plex, Ms Doyle says.

It’s not fair on de­fen­dants to re­strict their rep­re­sen­ta­tion to less ex­pe­ri­enced lawyers, Ms Doyle says.

‘‘You’re talk­ing about peo­ple’s lives, chil­dren’s lives,’’ she says. ‘‘They need a good lawyer, not just a ju­nior lawyer.’’

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