Legal Aid Society


Listen: Attorneys for Children Seek Pay Parity

Dawne Mitchell, Chief Attorney of The Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice, recently joined The Capitol Pressroom to discuss the critical need to fairly compensate lawyers representing children.

Mitchell explained that New York State mandates young people have an attorney when facing a legal proceeding and that organizations like Legal Aid provide direct legal representation to more than 90% of children who find themselves in court. Thousands of children every year utilize these critical services, Legal Aid alone currently has 30k active cases. The State funds these services, but not in an equitable way.

Mitchell explained that in New York City the starting salary for a Legal Aid attorney is almost 20k less than their counterpart who would work on the same case representing the government. This discrepancy in funding has an enormous impact.

“While the government funds us, they not funding us to cover the parity in salary, but they’re also not covering the expense of running law practices,” she explained. “How does that work out? Our attorneys are overloaded, we have stunning attrition, and these inadequate salaries drive really seasoned attorneys away from this work.”

“Representing children is just not a 9 to 5 assignment, the work continues beyond the courtroom,” she continued. “In fact in New York City there are evening court hours and weekend and holiday court hours. We have constantly been asked to do more with less but the time has come, now more than ever, that we shift to a place of looking at parity.”

Listen to the full segment below.