If you have ever needed any kind of legal advice, but couldn't afford it, chances are you turned to Legal Aid. A lot of people are thankful to be able to have Legal Aid if they have ever found themselves in a position that they need it.

Unfortunately, Legal Aid is not something that is on the top of the list for provincial funding and lawyers are having a difficult time justifying taking Legal Aid files.Hugh SommervilleHugh Sommerville, Drumheller Criminal Defence Lawyer

"Lawyers really don't want to simply strike and withdraw their services from the people who need them; I think they are getting somewhat frustrated that the courts have been downloading a lot of the workload onto the defense lawyers. The government has been spending a bunch of money hiring more prosecutors and paying them better, (while) Legal Aid has languished," explained Hugh Sommerville, criminal defense lawyer in the valley.

Sommerville pointed out that it is getting harder and harder for defense lawyers to make a living trying to help the poor people that need them, but he would be surprised if the Defense Lawyer Association decided to simply withdraw their services.

"At this point I think that the job action that they are proposing is more a matter of something to bring awareness to what is going on, without actually withdrawing services, and my hope is that they continue along that route," admitted Sommerville.

He also admits that lawyers get paid only a fraction of what they would get paid by a 'cash' client. Because of this, they are creating a system where only people who are so junior that one almost questions their competency are the only ones that are willing to take the files in rural communities. Files are being handed to people who may not be able to handle them because someone with any experience will simply refuse the files if they have to use their own wear, tear and gas mileage to speak to a matter.

"I feel bad for Legal Aid; they are trying to do what they can with the inadequate funds they are given, but they try to do things like give Drumheller lawyers certificates on Hanna matters and refuse to pay for travel time. Nobody else in the system is expected to drive on their own dime; that's what Legal Aid is expecting of defense lawyers now. That is just one example of how they are trying to save money," advised Sommerville.
 

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