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Canada has a crying need to dial back the power of lawyers

NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

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NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

I don't have any speciific answers on how to do this but if we are ever going to have a more equal and fair Canada the law profession's stranglehold on our society has to be smashed. The legal profession more than any other group is responsible for the growing gap between the rich and poor in Canada. And it is the main culprit in our justice sytem where lawyer's powers are used to get the rich and famous off the hook so thay don't have to pay for their criminal acts in the courts like joe and jane citizen do. 


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

 

Mr Hollande: "Everyone in the Republic will be treated equally in their rights and duties" sounds like a good new beginning for France. It is such a relief to see the crooks turfed from power there.

 


bagkitty
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Joined: Aug 27 2008

I am in substantial agreement with you NorthReport - a few small suggestions on how to get there: 1) time to start questioning the "self-regulating" nature of the "profession" (and that should apply to all the self-regulating professions IMHO) -- I think they should be compelled to demonstrate how the public interest is served by them self-adjudicating... and when they can't, bring the profession under public control. 2) Published fee schedules -- there are times when it is actually necessary to have a lawyer represent you, the costs of this should be a matter of public information, and debate. The threat of regulating fees should never be far from the table. 3) A real debate on "Legal Aid" -- information should be available to the public on eligibility and an honest appraisal if existing programs meet current needs - I would suggest such an honest appraisal would find that the system is almost totally broken - and an accompanying debate on funding universal access to legal aid much like we access healthcare... and an equivalent of the Canada Health Act being brought in to ensure some basic standard of access to the system.

How's that for starting points?


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

I don't entirely agree. Take away the power of the law and the rich and powerful have even less to hold them back. 

I'd start by restoring the program to fund federal govenrment challenges which Harper cut.

And the legal aid suggestion is an excellent one.

There is plenty wrong with the legal system that needs to be fixed, but in terms of too much, the only thing that concerns me is Canada adopting the overly litigious civil system they have in the U.S. I couldn't believe the advertising I saw down there, including radio spots that made it sound like people should want to get in car accidents so they could sue the pants off someone.

 


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

bagkitty wrote:

...I would suggest such an...accompanying debate on funding universal access to legal aid much like we access healthcare... and an equivalent of the Canada Health Act being brought in to ensure some basic standard of access to the system.

How might that work?

Also, in my experience, there is a significant percentage of lawyers who really aren't terribly bright.  So, just getting access to "a lawyer" is not like getting access to regular vaccinations or other routine medical care.


bagkitty
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Joined: Aug 27 2008

Two points I would like to draw attention to from an article on The Canadian Bar Association Website:

Quote:
Legal Aid is Required by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Several provisions of the Charter recognize the need for legal aid. It is an aspect of the right to a fair trial (section 11(d)), to life, liberty and security of the person (section 7) and to equal protection of the law (section 15). Although the courts have only applied Charter rights to legal aid situations in a few cases, it is clear that the Charter offers a constitutional safety net: a minimum service that must be made available by the government to those in greatest need.

[...]

Disparities in Coverage
There is inconsistent legal aid coverage throughout the country. For example, while Manitoba provides legal aid services to a woman to deal with child custody and support matters, British Columbia would not. The disparity in coverage does not afford all Canadians equal protection under the law. Essential public services of reasonable and comparable quality are not being provided equally across the country.

@Sven:

As to how it would work, see the Constitution Act (1982), particularly section 36 which states in part:

Quote:

Parliament and the government of Canada are committed to the principle of making Equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

Since access to Legal Aid pretty obviously falls under the heading of "public services" (especially given explicit references to it in the Charter), federal funding under the equalization programs seems the obvious route to go in financing more equitable access for all... and, as I suggested earlier, some piece of legislation roughly equivalent of the Canada Health Act (CHA) would be the basic regulatory framework to ensure certain basic benchmarks were met by all jurisdictions - failure to follow the regulatory framework would result in not receiving that portion of the equalization funding earmarked for the specific purpose.

That seems rather self-explanatory to me and is essentially how the CHA operates in attempting to ensure that funding is directed toward mandated benchmarks.

 


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

There is something fundamentally wrong that allows the rich and powerful to get away with breaking the laws much, much more than others. Maybe we do need to nationalize the legal profession so that there is not those huge financial incentives to do wrong. The Murdochs and the Blacks of this world would never get to the positions of power they have reached without the legal profession showing them how to do it, all the way along the route.  


Caissa
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Joined: Jun 14 2006

The legal profession eventually took Black down. For Murdoch, it is probably only a matter of time.


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

No where near good enough as a few years in jail at the tail end of their careers is a mere pittance compared to the overall damage their right-wing ideologies have wrecked on our societies.

This 24/7 churning out in our press of hatred for the poor, the disadvantaged, people of colour, first nations, or anything that leads to increasing the resources of the already rich, powerful, and greedy, has got to be stopped.

 

Caissa wrote:

The legal profession eventually took Black down. For Murdoch, it is probably only a matter of time.


Caissa
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Joined: Jun 14 2006

Sorry to interrupt. Feel free to resume the slagging of the legal profession.


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

Indeed. Throw the Criminal Code and the Charter in the fire. That should stop them.


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

Yes, I almost forgot. Lots of LOLCATS. They're really scared of those.

 


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

Yea, it's just amazin' to see Canada's legal profession rushing to the defense of these foreign workers, eh!  Tongue out

The legal profession is there for the 1 per centers that's for sure but not many others.

We do need to seriously look at nationalizing the legal profession as their power is way out of control in Canada. 

A good beginning would be to cut back on their fees bigtime

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/time-to-lead/does-temporary...


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

If the Ontario can reduce doctor's fees in Ontario there is no reason we can't dial back the legal fees as well. Let's get on with it.


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

I don't hear Canada's lawyers lobbying for a financial transaction tax - how come?  Frown


A_J
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Joined: Aug 12 2008

 

NorthReport wrote:

 

I don't hear Canada's lawyers lobbying for a financial transaction tax - how come?  

 

I don't hear Canada's cab-drivers lobbying for a financial transaction tax either - where's the topic slagging them?  Hate to disappoint you, but the legal community is not a monolithic profession with one voice and one position.  I'm sure there are individual lawyers who support it, and myriad other policies, and others who are opposed.

 

@bagkitty:

 

The Canadian Bar Association's code of professioanl conduct (adopted by most [all?] provincial law societies) already requires lawyers to fully disclose their fees and to be as clear as possible about anticipated costs.  Fees (and the other terms of retaining an individual lawyer or firm) are never "secret" and would be available to anyone considering retaining a lawyer/firm.

 

I agree that legal aid programs could use more funding - either to employ legal aid lawyers directly, or for legal aid certificates to retain members of the private bar - but that really has nothing to do with the profession itself but is a matter of how government spends its money.

 

Caissa wrote:

 

Sorry to interrupt. Feel free to resume the slagging of the legal profession.

 

 

Bunch of regular Dick the Butchers around here, am I right?

 


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

It's quite simple. No one but no one should be paid $500 an hour while others are working for minimum wage.

What's not to understand that there are too many pigs at the trough.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Sorry I do not support this idea.

I have a lot of trouble with some members of the legal profession but rule of law is essential to freedoms. My trouble is the lack of fair access to law.

Many people who advocate for reducing the power of lawyers want majority parliaments to make the laws and not have them tested in the courts-- this is usually a right wing argument-- to take away the power of lawyers to practice. It leads to tyranny by the majority (which can be a minority after all as we know).

Many love to hate the legal profession but like political office it is important and the quality of the people who are in it affect our lives. I would rather have trained lawyers discussing my freedoms than elected political people. Elected people support large numbers of people and are paid in votes -- lawyers have the responsibility to stick up fairly for just one -- whether that person is popular or not.

Not everything can be decided by popularity contests-- individual rights would be one.

I think the important thing is to recognize the value of what lawyers do and democratize it.


Jacob Two-Two
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Joined: Jan 16 2002

I'm more concerned with the way justice is bought and sold in our society. People with lots of money are well-represented in our courts and poor people are barely represented at all. It really is comparable to the issue of health care and how rich people in capitalist systems can buy up the available resources for themselves, rather than operating on a system that prioritises all human life. Still, I find myself hesitant to formalise a similar arrangement for legal services as we do for health services. Maybe there's some path between these extremes?


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

NorthReport wrote:

It's quite simple. No one but no one should be paid $500 an hour while others are working for minimum wage.

What's not to understand that there are too many pigs at the trough.

I think some lawyers get too much but let's be fair about the comparison.

A lawyer billing at $500 an hour is not making $500 an hour. This is the amount for a billable hour it pays for:

- nonbillable hours running operation, consultations etc.

- overhead of the office

- support salaries

This is not to say that the difference is not too great but you can't compare the two directly.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

BTW I have a friend earning $80 as a paralegal -- his office has a lot lower costs than a lawyer's office. After expenses he does not make minimum wage. And that is common-- Those who provide good service often find themselves with lower billable hours, higher costs and little if any money left over. Obviously lawyers charge a lot more but it is not pure profit to them.

For example-- you do an appearance in court. It is scheduled for the morning. Many lawyers charge only for the hearing time. They could have 4-5 non-billable hours waiting for that hour of billable time.

Just so you know.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Jacob Two-Two wrote:

I'm more concerned with the way justice is bought and sold in our society. People with lots of money are well-represented in our courts and poor people are barely represented at all. It really is comparable to the issue of health care and how rich people in capitalist systems can buy up the available resources for themselves, rather than operating on a system that prioritises all human life. Still, I find myself hesitant to formalise a similar arrangement for legal services as we do for health services. Maybe there's some path between these extremes?

Yes,-- the problem is that health care is more objective a need. Legal services are in many cases a choice. If everyone had a free lawyer for anythign they wanted there would be over-use -- not true about medecine.


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

 

A web of privilege supports this so-called meritocracy

On both sides of the Atlantic, the social ties that bind our political, legal and corporate forces lie exposed

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/06/leveson-murdoch-came...


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

I guess that'll mean the end of high professional hockey player salaries.  That dirty pig Ovechkin...he's getting paid (roughly) $5,000 per hour (assuming he works about 2,000 hours per year).  As NorthReport lamented, "No one but no one should be paid $500 an hour while others are working for minimum wage." (emphasis added)


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

NorthReport wrote:

This 24/7 churning out in our press of hatred for the poor, the disadvantaged, people of colour, first nations, or anything that leads to increasing the resources of the already rich, powerful, and greedy, has got to be stopped.

None of that is illegal. COnrad Black went to jail when he actually broke the law.


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

NorthReport wrote:

If the Ontario can reduce doctor's fees in Ontario there is no reason we can't dial back the legal fees as well. Let's get on with it.

Doctors, for the most part, are paid by the government. Most lawyers are not. If somebody wants to pay a lawyer $500 an hour, who is to stop them. If you want to limit their fees, what about others. Hockey players make far more than lawyers. But, again, if somebody wants to pay someone millions to pay hockey, how do you propose to stop them? And to what purpose?


Mr.Tea
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Joined: Jul 9 2011

NorthReport wrote:

If the Ontario can reduce doctor's fees in Ontario there is no reason we can't dial back the legal fees as well. Let's get on with it.

Doctors, for the most part, are paid by the government. Most lawyers are not. If somebody wants to pay a lawyer $500 an hour, who is to stop them. If you want to limit their fees, what about others. Hockey players make far more than lawyers. But, again, if somebody wants to pay someone millions to pay hockey, how do you propose to stop them? And to what purpose?


DSloth
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Joined: Apr 26 2011

bagkitty wrote:

I am in substantial agreement with you NorthReport - a few small suggestions on how to get there: 1) time to start questioning the "self-regulating" nature of the "profession" (and that should apply to all the self-regulating professions IMHO) -- I think they should be compelled to demonstrate how the public interest is served by them self-adjudicating... and when they can't, bring the profession under public control. 2) Published fee schedules -- there are times when it is actually necessary to have a lawyer represent you, the costs of this should be a matter of public information, and debate. The threat of regulating fees should never be far from the table. 3) A real debate on "Legal Aid" -- information should be available to the public on eligibility and an honest appraisal if existing programs meet current needs - I would suggest such an honest appraisal would find that the system is almost totally broken - and an accompanying debate on funding universal access to legal aid much like we access healthcare... and an equivalent of the Canada Health Act being brought in to ensure some basic standard of access to the system.

How's that for starting points?

 

Those are some very good starting points. I'd like to see if any of the broad opponents of NorthReport's OP can find anything to object to here. 

Lawyer bashing (and bashing the rich generally) in and of itself can be a pretty fruitless excercise but there are very real ways in which the self-regulating, elitist clubs that are the Canadian Law Societies work very much against the public interest. 


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

Tks DSloth, and yes bagkitty did indeed make some quite useful suggestions.

Caissa your argument reminds me of a good analogy - what was the name of that company that Dick Cheney was involved with, oh yea Haliburton. First they tore down Iraq, and then they rebuilt it, making money on both sides of the operation. Don't you see something wrong with that picture?

Caissa wrote:

The legal profession eventually took Black down. For Murdoch, it is probably only a matter of time.


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