Some criminal lawyers in Christchurch have had to resort to driving taxis or waitressing to make ends meet, the Law Society says.
Since the February earthquake, the city's courts complex remains off-limits and only urgent hearings have been taking place elsewhere.
Many criminal lawyers have been on a duty solicitor roster, which the Law Society says earns them only about $200 each a week after tax.
Law Society's Canterbury-Westland branch president Allister Davis says some lawyers have moved away and others who've stayed are trying to supplement their income with casual work.
He says it's hoped the problems will ease when a criminal list court begins operating from Nga Hau e Wha marae on 18 April.