LawFuel.com – Wellington – March 5, 2007 – Claims that the legal aid system is failing for poor pay are belied by figures paid to lawyers and law firms, including some of New Zealand’s leading lawyers and corporate law firms.
LawFuel.com acquired details on legal aid payments made to 30 June 2006 under the Offical Information Act, which show payments made to over 1400 New Zealand lawyers and law firms. The top 50 claimants together shared over $20 million in legal aid payments for the year. (See full list: http://www.lawfuel.com/page.asp?ID=19)
Among the top group was Solicitor General, David Collins QC, at Number 18 on the list of lawyers who shared most from the largesse of the Country’s legal aid payments where he took home to Lowry Bay almost $400,000 for the 12 months to June 2006.
As Solicitor General, Dr Collins is paid on the same rate as a Judge. He was appointed by the Labour Government in August. A Supreme Court Judge earns $348,000 so he took a drop in public remuneration when he accepted the Labour-appointed role as the Government’s chief legal adviser in August 2006.
However, equally surprising has been the earnings of two barristers who earned almost $1 million each in legal aid takings. Wellington’s Sonja Cooper took home over $950,000 beating Auckland barrister Charles Hirschfeld by $14,000. Hirschfeld handles Maori and fisheries work.
Cooper has helped spearhead actions against the Crown by psychiatric patients, alleging physical, emotional or sexual abuse at Porirua Hospital during the 1960s and 1970s. She has been assisted by Wellington boutique firm Johnston Lawrence, who ranked 36 in the country with over $315,000.
King of the Cash in firm terms was the Wellington office of Kensington Swan, who took over $2.2 million in legal aid funding to boost partners coffers. It is not clear at this stage what this work related to, but much of the funding for major law beneficiaries has been Maori land, health-related and fisheries work. Over the road from Kensington Swan, in the swanky Mobil tower, boutique practice Rainey Collins added a fullsome $862,000 as their legal aid takings for the year to June.
Queens’ Counsel were among the top ranked lawyer legal aid beneficiaries, the top three being David Collins (above), Paul Mabey of Tauranga (over $225,000) and John Rowan of Wanganui (over $194,000).
Former law lecturer, ACC specialist and 2002 Wellingtonian of the Year John Miller boosted his earnings as a former Victoria University law lecturer. Miller dumped lecturing for his much-vaunted and better remunerated role as upholder of ACC claimants seeking recourse against the public corporation. He was richly rewarded with close to $700,000 in public-funded legal work for the 12 months to June 2006.
Rotorua firm Rangitauira & Co, who handle Maori land work among other briefs, were fourth overall with overt $880,000 and a range of provincial law practices and barristers filled the ranks from there on.
The full list is available for download from the LawFuel.com website: log in to
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