Michael Welsh, who was appointed bar president on August 15, said rural citizens, including small-business owners in remote communities, are suffering due to increasing attrition within the legal profession. Welsh noted that many rural lawyers are baby boomers and have reached the age of retirement.

“A lot of the lawyers who are in the smaller communities have been there a long time,” said Welsh, a litigation lawyer with Penticton’s Mott, Welsh & Associates. “And they’re getting to the age where they’re retiring or winding down their practices and you’re not finding younger lawyers coming into those communities to replace them.”

The CBABC estimates that approximately 75% of B.C.’s lawyers practise within Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey. Welsh said most law school graduates are forced to work for a major firm when they leave school because large companies are the only ones that can afford to pay the size of salaries that can reduce student debts.

A CBABC letter to Premier Christy Clark lobbying to add lawyers to the loan forgiveness program noted that, because the average starting salary for a lawyer usually ranges between $25,000 and $45,000, working in a rural setting or trying to set up a practice is not cost-effective.

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