Legal Aid Cracks Down On Refugee Lawyers. But At What Cost?
By Andy Semotiuk | April 28, 2015
Legal Aid Cracks Down on Refugee Lawyers
Legal Aid Ontario is tightening its rules for lawyers who take on refugee cases following a scathing report that showed thousands of Hungarian Roma were left high and dry by lawyers who made hundreds of thousands of dollars from them.
Andrew Brouwer, senior legal counsel with Immigration and Refugee Law at Legal Aid Ontario, said starting this summer, lawyers who want to handle legal aid refugee cases will have to apply to be authorized to handle those kinds of cases, pass a competency test and meet certain standards and best practices.
Brouwer said those practices include meeting clients upon being retained, spending sufficient time preparing them for their hearings and making sure they have the opportunity to tell their whole story.
It also means using translators, properly translating documents and filing evidence to the Immigration and Refugee Board tribunal on time….
“We are going to be vetting every single refugee lawyer in Ontario to ensure they meet the standards and if they don’t, they may not be permitted to continue or they will be put on some sort of conditions until they can demonstrate they meet the standards,” he said.
I gave up legal aid long ago because I simply could not afford to provide my legal services at the prices paid. I know there are many others like me. Like it or not, law is a competitive business. Would a good lawyer like to help every deserving refugee claimant? Yes. Would that good lawyer like to help their kids get through university? Also yes. And something has to give.Fact is, the effort vs. compensation ratio for refugee cases is bad compared to practicing other types of law. Few lawyers are willing to drop their responsibilities to other clients, their firms, themselves and their families for the sake of helping refugees in circumstances where the rewards are small. It will remain this way until someone – and unfortunately, the refugee almost always can’t afford it – raises the compensation for such work.