SALT LAKE COUNTY, UT. – A lawyer shortage is threatening access to justice in Utah and across the country. Today, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill asked the County Council for $332,300 to help fill the 26 lawyer vacancies the office currently has.
“This is really an urgent scenario for us and this isn’t something that we’re going to be able to sustain,” Gill said.
District Attorney Sim Gill says his office is having a hard time filling the attorney positions that are open right now.
“We need to be market-responsive. So right now, it’s a buyer’s market if you’re a lawyer,” Gill said.
He says there’s not enough lawyers to keep up with the demand due to a lawyer shortage.
“You have law firms competing for these positions. Then you have government agencies competing for those same positions,” Gill explains.
This is partly because fewer students are choosing to go to law school. For example, in 2018, the DA’s office had 187 candidates that they consider ‘qualified’ apply. In 2021 that number decreased by 51% to 91%.
“Our two law schools, for example, this is probably one of the lowest incoming classes for both the law schools,” Gill said.
He said a lot of people are choosing to retire or change professions altogether rather than sustain an overwhelming workload. This is due to the backlog of cases in the system from the pandemic.
“It certainly runs the risk of impacting those cases, how quickly we can respond to them especially those cases that are victim-centered. We want to make sure we have the proper staffing to ensure the public safety that our community deserves,” Gill said.
He says competition from the government sector has increased dramatically instead of primarily the private sector due to the pandemic. He tells ABC4 that the private sector continues to offer higher salaries that they cannot match. That’s why he’s asking the county council to approve more than $300,000 to help attract candidates.
“We all have a shared responsibility in the kind of community that we want, the kind of justice that we want to deliver to our victims of crime. Public safety is everyone’s concern and should be everyone’s concern,” Gill adds.
Gill said he will go back to the council next week to answer some questions they still have after Tuesday’s meeting. He is hopeful that they will decide to grant him that money to hire more prosecutors to fight crime.