Redress Risk Management (post until May 31/19)

Inadequate compensation, support causing women to leave criminal law

The Retention of Women in the Private Practice of Criminal Law: Research Report, commissioned by the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA), confirmed that women are leaving the private practice of criminal law at higher rates than their male colleagues, Toronto criminal lawyer Breese Davies tells Lawyers Weekly.

“Some of the numbers are staggering,” and include a 72-per-cent attrition rate for women who were called to the Bar in 1996 and started their careers in criminal law, Davies, vice-president of the CLA tells the publication.

Another issue women face in the private practice of criminal law is an inability to sustain a practice on the current legal aid funding model, says the article.

Davies tells Lawyers Weekly that although this may appear to be a gender-neutral issue, many women raising a family or caring for an elderly parent are asking whether it is worth continuing to practise “if you’re spending so much of your time to get paid at rates that are a fraction of what you could get paid privately if you did some other area of law.” 

Davies also explains that Legal Aid often pays lawyers for only a fraction of the time that is reasonably required on a file.

“Many, many women are saying no, it’s not worth it,” she says.

The report also confirms that female criminal defence lawyers who take leaves to raise and care for their families have inadequate support when they return to work.  As the article notes, Crowns or lawyers working at larger firms can often take time off, get their pay topped up and have files once they return to work. However, a sole practitioner’s clients may have found another lawyer.

“Often women are coming back to zero clients, zero work so they’re rebuilding a small practice from the ground,” Davies tells Lawyers Weekly.


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