Monday, March 29, 2010

Private NYC Criminal Defense Attorneys Get Defensive About Pay

Who you callin' a fat cat?

Threatened by proposed city cost cutting, 1,100 private attorneys who handle criminal cases involving indigent defendants insist they're a bargain compared with the nonprofits they fear are trying to move in on their turf.

The nonprofit Legal Aid Society had three lawyers making more than $170,000 a year; New York County Defenders has three making $150,000; and the top two at Brooklyn Defender Services made $162,000 and $137,000, 2008 tax records show.

The private lawyers, who get $75 an hour for felony cases through the city-funded 18-B program, can make up to $200,000 but have to shell out for overhead expenses.

"We handle the most complicated, labor-intensive cases, which the not-for-profits are less equipped to handle," said 18-B lawyer Bryan Konoski, who earns $190,000.

The nonprofits say it's nonsense to compare 18-B earners to execs like Legal Aid's Steven Banks, who oversees 1,450 staffers for about $200,000 a year.

Banks, "who typically works an 85-hour week and takes hardly any vacation, actually makes substantially less per hour," said Legal Aid spokeswoman Pat Bath.

Source: Legal


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