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Working as a Crown - Answering Questions


Judgelight
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BlockedQuebecois
  • Lawyer
10 minutes ago, Thrive92 said:

You should ask OP. I bet as a junior crown lawyer he/she/they knows alot of stuff about it

Did you just tell OP to ask OP? 

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Pendragon
  • Lawyer
50 minutes ago, Judgelight said:

To the other Crowns out there... does it ever get better? This month I have 4 out of court days. Those days I'll probably spend doing other stuff. 

Last week I had 17 JPTs scheduled in a day. 5 self-reps. 10 + pleas a day for people with multiple infos. There obviously wasn't enough time to get through them all. Nor did I have any time to prep for them. Every day I feel like I'm jumping into trials or pleas or bails without having any prep time whatsoever. 

Would I be crazy to consider switching to def work for a better work life balance? The hours, stress and vicarious trauma doesn't seem to be worth the pittance of a salary I make, especially with short contracts and new interviews (what feels like) every few months.

Some days I love my jobs. Recently I've been getting burned out.

I've seen a lot of posts on this on Reddit Law Canada. May want to ask there.

 

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krazykanuck
  • Lawyer

I’m a Crown, few years out, permanent, and can offer a comments/perspectives here. 
 

1. There are some alternative paths to working at the Crowns office- specifically the flexibility to take a short term contract with no guarantee of continued employment. Case and point- I got into the crowns office with a 3 month contract after the Jordan decision gave offices resources to hire extra Crowns. I was doing civil law before- but was just in the right place/time to take the job, and then I continued to get contracts for a couple years before getting permanent. 
 

right now there are offices out there that have extra Covid resources out there to hire Crowns on short term contracts and get into the system- you just have to ask around and find out which offices are looking. 
 

2. Getting easier- getting more experienced is double edged- in being a crown just like any other part of the legal profession- things get easier- but then you wind up doing more serious and complicated cases. 
 

3. smaller offices- if you’re overwhelmed working as a crown in a massive office- consider seeking a job in a smaller office

In my experience I’ve had a lot more freedom and time working in a smaller office (less than 10 lawyers) vs a larger (30+ lawyer office)- plus in a smaller office I find people take more ownership of cases- and don’t pass stuff off to some unknown lawyer to deal with it down the line. 
 

4. Perks- there are some perks of the job that do not exist in private practice that, at least for me, make the job worthwhile. 

- vacation time - 4 weeks a year to start in Ontario- and you can actually take it/ or carry over to next year- and you actually do not need to look at your phone when on vacation

- pension- it’s a government job- with a government pension- and a defined potential retirement date- not everyone has this

- mat leave/pat leave benefits- most crowns now take the max 18 months (split between parents) I’m a new father taking a four month pat leave when mom goes back to work- and I’ll get 93% of my pay during the leave

- billing/ business development- I don’t need to do any of this shit. 

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  • 1 month later...
N. Mink
  • Lawyer
On 8/28/2021 at 9:12 PM, Judgelight said:

Legal aid to MAG is basically unheard of - most legal aid lawyers don't have the trial experience to cut it as a crown - no offence intended.

 

I've seen PPSC (staff) prosecutors move to the province. Agent work is too lucrative - they'd be insane to move.

Municipal? Never seen it. 

Of course, on the civil side of things, things may differ.

Federal Crown Agent work is too lucrative? How the heck did you reach that conclusion? 

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Vizslaw
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Yeah, our former principal had like 35 years of experience and maxed out at about $130/hour with the PPSC Agent work. It made no sense for the firm, as he would be out-billed by junior associates who had their private rate fresh out of articles at $150 and then $200 after 1-2 years. It can be lucrative if you have a half-dozen or more lawyers just crushing 10 hours every day, but it's hard to have that volume. I did enjoy the agent work, but I'm glad to have moved on it's a much better business/practice area to get away from our PPSC overlords and their politics. 

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realpseudonym
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42 minutes ago, N. Mink said:

Federal Crown Agent work is too lucrative? How the heck did you reach that conclusion? 

I often say this about legal aid work: at 109.14 per hour with strict tariff maxes, do these golden handcuffs come with a key or will I just have to learn to live with all this government funded luxury?

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  • 3 weeks later...
Thrive92
  • Applicant
On 11/2/2021 at 6:07 PM, realpseudonym said:

I often say this about legal aid work: at 109.14 per hour with strict tariff maxes, do these golden handcuffs come with a key or will I just have to learn to live with all this government funded luxury?

109 per hour doesnt sound too bad ngl.

I know that I wont be working 8 hour shifts per day, but still. 109 per hour doesnt sound too bad

 

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realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
2 hours ago, Thrive92 said:

109 per hour doesnt sound too bad ngl.

I know that I wont be working 8 hour shifts per day, but still. 109 per hour doesnt sound too bad

 

It depends on your overhead and how efficient you are. It’s often a challenge to finish certain matters within the number of hours LAO allocates, especially when your clients have mental health issues. LAO might grant discretion in some of those cases. But at a certain point, it’s possible that you’ll do quite a bit of free work to do what needs to be done. After subtracting fixed costs and unpaid work, your pre-tax take home wage can end up well short of that 109.14 mark. But again, how much you earn on LAO depends on your costs and efficiency. And quite honestly, how willing you are to turn away certain clients in need, because you ultimately know that they’re more trouble than LAO thinks they’re worth. 

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Thrive92
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42 minutes ago, realpseudonym said:

It depends on your overhead and how efficient you are. It’s often a challenge to finish certain matters within the number of hours LAO allocates, especially when your clients have mental health issues. LAO might grant discretion in some of those cases. But at a certain point, it’s possible that you’ll do quite a bit of free work to do what needs to be done. After subtracting fixed costs and unpaid work, your pre-tax take home wage can end up well short of that 109.14 mark. But again, how much you earn on LAO depends on your costs and efficiency. And quite honestly, how willing you are to turn away certain clients in need, because you ultimately know that they’re more trouble than LAO thinks they’re worth. 

I'm in BC, so legal aid policies may differ.

However, even if i can get half that (50/hour), I will be content.

Really, 4k a month is at the higher end of my greed - scale.

Keep in mind though, I'm not even in law school yet. So i probably have no idea what I am talking about

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realpseudonym
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13 minutes ago, Thrive92 said:

I'm in BC, so legal aid policies may differ.

However, even if i can get half that (50/hour), I will be content.

Really, 4k a month is at the higher end of my greed - scale.

Keep in mind though, I'm not even in law school yet. So i probably have no idea what I am talking about

It felt like a lot when I first started. And in some ways, it is. But then you start doing financial planning, and you realize that you’d really have to grind to have a family and/or retire someday through a primarily LAO based practice.

I take lots of LAO files, and I do so happily. But increasingly, it’s out of a sense of duty to serve very vulnerable clients, rather than being a real money maker. 

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Thrive92
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44 minutes ago, realpseudonym said:

It felt like a lot when I first started. And in some ways, it is. But then you start doing financial planning, and you realize that you’d really have to grind to have a family and/or retire someday through a primarily LAO based practice.

I take lots of LAO files, and I do so happily. But increasingly, it’s out of a sense of duty to serve very vulnerable clients, rather than being a real money maker. 

This was already asked in the old website, but if you are comfortable with saying it, may i ask how much would you earn on a monthly basis on just the legal aid cases?

I get that it may be different in BC, but I am still curious

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realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
2 hours ago, Thrive92 said:

This was already asked in the old website, but if you are comfortable with saying it, may i ask how much would you earn on a monthly basis on just the legal aid cases?

I get that it may be different in BC, but I am still curious

It varies. I'll PM. 

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Judgelight
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On 11/21/2021 at 3:45 PM, realpseudonym said:

It varies. I'll PM. 

May sound crazy, but mind sharing publicly? The reason I ask is because I have friends who are def lawyers, and they give me numbers that run the whole gambit (from 80k for a guy that's in court twice a week, to someone who drives a exotic car).

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N. Mink
  • Lawyer
On 11/23/2021 at 5:24 PM, Judgelight said:

May sound crazy, but mind sharing publicly? The reason I ask is because I have friends who are def lawyers, and they give me numbers that run the whole gambit (from 80k for a guy that's in court twice a week, to someone who drives a exotic car).

How would one criminal defence lawyer publicly disclosing what they are billing legal aid help you to reconcile what your friend(s) in criminal defence earn? 
 

80k for a junior criminal defence lawyer doing high volume legal aid work is in the ballpark. I don’t know what to say about “someone who drives an exotic car”(?). Is this a criminal lawyer who does legal aid, as well? 

 

 

 

 

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Thrive92
  • Applicant
29 minutes ago, N. Mink said:

80k for a junior criminal defence lawyer doing high volume legal aid work is in the ballpark.

May I ask in which province this is in the ballpark?

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razraini
  • Lawyer
8 minutes ago, N. Mink said:

BC. 

I'm not defence but I'd speculate that that's roughly the same in AB. Which is just shy of what level 1 prosecutors earn as an FYI.

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Thrive92
  • Applicant
8 minutes ago, N. Mink said:

BC. 

Sorry to pester you with more questions, but are these lawyers the lawyers working legal aid directly employed by the LSS? aka the lawyers who went on strike a couple of years ago?

Or are these the lawyers who work in private practice who gets legal aid work?

I was also told from the previous site that for BC, the chances of new criminal defense lawyers assigned legal aid work is rare, and so I imagined a few years with little to no work from legal aid. Is this still true?

Thanks for the reply btw. I've wanted to know for a long time if I can sustain myself financially with just criminal legal aid cases in BC as soon as I get called to the bar.

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N. Mink
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9 minutes ago, Thrive92 said:

Sorry to pester you with more questions, but are these lawyers the lawyers working legal aid directly employed by the LSS? aka the lawyers who went on strike a couple of years ago?

Or are these the lawyers who work in private practice who gets legal aid work?

I was also told from the previous site that for BC, the chances of new criminal defense lawyers assigned legal aid work is rare, and so I imagined a few years with little to no work from legal aid. Is this still true?

Thanks for the reply btw. I've wanted to know for a long time if I can sustain myself financially with just criminal legal aid cases in BC as soon as I get called to the bar.

The legal aid lawyers in BC who represent accused persons ARE in private practice. They receive a contract if they are requested by an accused and they accept. The tariff rates are available on the LSS site. 

These are the same lawyers who you are referring to with respect to the (threatened) strike action, I believe. 
 

Plenty of new calls get lots of legal aid contracts. But they hustle for them. I think the comments you are referencing were made with respect to getting a file referral from legal aid directly, without the accused requesting you. 
 

I was able to do that, too. But it required some schmoozing  with the legal aid admin staff who assign files (which you could do, back in the pre-pandemic days when LSS staffed offices in the courthouse…) 

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Legal Aid lawyers in BC are different from in Ontario. In BC every case is a separate contract with legal aid. An accused person applies for a lawyer, and one is either randomly assigned or may be requested if the accused has a specific person in mind. Practically speaking, the only viable way to build a legal aid practise is to get your name requested: as Mink says above, the odds of you adding your name to their roster and suddenly getting a referral are low, especially if no one knows you.

The strike action has a long and storied history in BC. There's a rather compelling graph that shows Crown, Judge, and Legal Aid pay over the last four decades. The first two go in a steady line up. The third one stays pretty much horizontal. There have been a couple major strikes to address this where the bulk of lawyers who accept legal aid tickets refused to take them any more (some exceptions being made for in custody matters). The difficulty is that there's no overarching structure to defence counsel so it was an honour system only.

Everyone in BC knows who built their practise by taking on a large volume of clients during these strikes because no one else was accepting them. There's a fair bit of bad blood out there, and it's worthwhile to familiarize yourself with this history if you plan to work as defence here.

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realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
5 minutes ago, N. Mink said:

Plenty of new calls get lots of legal aid contracts. But they hustle for them. I think the comments you are referencing were made with respect to getting a file referral from legal aid directly, without the accused requesting you. 

1 minute ago, Hegdis said:

especially if no one knows you.

I think regardless of jurisdiction, that this is important. Looking at the amount you can potentially bill is just that: potential. You have to get the work first, before you can do the case and bill it out. Once you have a lot of work, you can bill a lot, even to Legal Aid. But building your reputation to the point where people want you to be their lawyer (or working for another lawyer) is the key part, and the challenge in starting any practice. 

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Thrive92
  • Applicant
3 minutes ago, N. Mink said:

The legal aid lawyers in BC who represent accused persons ARE in private practice. They receive a contract if they are requested by an accused and they accept. The tariff rates are available on the LSS site. 

These are the same lawyers who you are referring to with respect to the (threatened) strike action, I believe.

Just now, Hegdis said:

Legal Aid lawyers in BC are different from in Ontario. In BC every case is a separate contract with legal aid. An accused person applies for a lawyer, and one is either randomly assigned or may be requested if the accused has a specific person in mind. Practically speaking, the only viable way to build a legal aid practise is to get your name requested: as Mink says above, the odds of you adding your name to their roster and suddenly getting a referral are low, especially if no one knows you.

The strike action has a long and storied history in BC. There's a rather compelling graph that shows Crown, Judge, and Legal Aid pay over the last four decades. The first two go in a steady line up. The third one stays pretty much horizontal. There have been a couple major strikes to address this where the bulk of lawyers who accept legal aid tickets refused to take them any more (some exceptions being made for in custody matters). The difficulty is that there's no overarching structure to defence counsel so it was an honour system only.

Interesting. I was informed (or misinformed now) that the LSS has legal aid lawyers that it employs directly that are the first ones to receive and review legal aid files, and if they cannot take it, it gets referred to private practice. Thank you both for clarifying. I have also seen the comparison between the crown and the legal aid lawyers over time in some articles.

5 minutes ago, N. Mink said:

Plenty of new calls get lots of legal aid contracts. But they hustle for them. I think the comments you are referencing were made with respect to getting a file referral from legal aid directly, without the accused requesting you. 
 

I was able to do that, too. But it required some schmoozing  with the legal aid admin staff who assign files (which you could do, back in the pre-pandemic days when LSS staffed offices in the courthouse…) 

This may sound dumb, but can you elaborate on the "hustle" or "schmooze" for the legal aid cases as a new call? Is it just getting to know the legal aid admin staff over coffee, or is it just full - blown bribery like how Saul goodman did gifting dolls to the courthouse schedule lady?

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Every legal aid office has some one that needs help right now, or is a difficult client generally, or who just needs a goddamn lawyer to walk by and be available for five minutes. Be the lawyer who checks in, says hello, helps some one out in the moment without getting paid. Do a good turn and you're going to get it back tenfold.

Aside from being just decent behaviour, it gives you a good reputation with the people on the ground. They are the ones who have the power to point clients to you.

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