Coronavirus: Court shutdowns, lack of legal work taking financial toll, lawyers say

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The shutdown of much of the country’s court system due to the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a financial toll on many lawyers, and law societies are not doing enough to help, members of the profession say.

While trial lawyers are perhaps most affected, many in the trade say other sectors — such as real estate — are also feeling the pinch. Small firms and relative newcomers, they say, are most exposed.

Godfred Chongatera, a lawyer in a small three-person mixed practice in Halifax, said he estimates his overall business has fallen 35 to 40 per cent. Declining revenues and work have meant having to lay off two full-time staff.

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“Who knows where this is going?” Chongatera said. “If this drags on for a long time, some or most sole practitioners will fold.”

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Most courts across Canada have now been all but closed for months. Bail hearings and other emergency applications have continued, as has other legal work that can be handled in writing or remotely, but many lawyers only make money when they can go to court for hearings.

For the most part,

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