The pandemic has forced courts to close with cases postponed for months. In order to navigate the “new normal”, Donich Law has to represent their clients through remote hearings and guilty pleas over the phone. Law firms have been affected by the pandemic with no decent income over the past few months.
Emily Dixon is a sole practitioner based in Toronto but since courts have postponed cases, she has no work. Assistance from the federal government does not apply to sole practitioners, only to workers and businesses. However, lawyers have to pay rent and other expenses.
Dixon’s situation is shared by other lawyers who do not have staff. According to the Law Society of Ontario annual report in 2018, there are more than 8,000 sole practitioners out of the 41,000 lawyers in Ontario. Sole practitioners are not eligible for the federal government’s interest-free $40,000 business loan.
Being an independent contractor, Dixon is not also qualified for the Employment Insurance. She hopes to qualify for the $2,000 a month Canada Emergency Response Benefit for those who are earning $1,000 a month or less. Dixon is worried that emergency response benefits might dry up and she won’t receive any help.
Dizon hopes that the Law Society of Ontario that regulates the legal profession will help lawyers financially in the form of income subsidies. Although the independent regulator has deferred the payment of annual fees, Dixon has already paid her share before the decision was made and cannot be refunded.
The problem is not unique to lawyers because businesses across the country that do not have employees do not get support from the government in spite of loss of revenue. Even if there are cases that are being tried remotely by the courts, they do not bring adequate revenue to lawyers. One good thing though is courts are forced to modernize to some degree to allow remote hearings.
While Donich Law is waiting for courts to open, they follow stay home orders and try to manage the law practice inside their home offices. You can still call the lawyers when you require their services because bail hearings can be done remotely.