Report Released: And Justice for All

 The Center for American Progress released a Report entitled And Justice for All: Prioritizing Free Legal Assistance During the Great Recession!

According to the release site:

The Center for American Progress suggests the following in order to help manage this crisis:

  • Congress should increase fiscal year 2010 appropriations for the Legal Services Corporation. They should match the corporation’s request for $485.1 million or at the very least implement the House-passed figure of $440 million. Congress should also lift current restrictions on legal services organizations when it passes appropriations legislation because the restrictions waste resources and hinder the pursuit of justice.
  • Congress should pass H.R. 1728 and S. 718, which are pieces of legislation designed to expand the resources available to legal aid organizations.
  • States must avoid making cuts to legal aid programs while seeking creative solutions that actually increase funding for these vital services.
  • The private bar should continue to expand current efforts that are leading to increased amounts of pro bono service.

In addition to the report information, it reminds us all why public interest attorneys are necessary – to allow people of low-income or those of moderate means to access goods and services that they need to thrive, and in some instances, simply to survive.

-RFW

It’s Time. Time to Talk about UNBUNDLED Legal Services.

Unbundled Legal Services

aka Limited Scope Legal Representation

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve noticed we appear to be in somewhat of a fiscal crisis. A meltdown. A mess. A recession.

Sure, sure. But what does that have to do with the law? Well, it seems that with this financial hiccup, this financial blip, this financial snarfle has profound impact on the daily lives of individuals. The impact results in loss of jobs, loss of homes, loss of medical insurance, loss of transportation, destroying marriages in its wake, affecting many.

Much of the loss involves court action – unemployment actions, foreclosure actions, bankruptcy and collection filings, divorce actions, etc. In the past many of these individuals would seek assistance from attorneys who are well-versed in the laws affecting their clients.

This is NOT occurring in this era of Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown and other DIY shows. Instead people are flocking into courtrooms themselves, without expert counsel. These individuals may be called Self-Represented Litigants (SRLs) or Pro Se Litigants or Pro Per Litigants. In this blog you’ve seen reference to SRLs.

Well, why is this worthy of a column?

  • Because unfortunately many of these individuals are heading into court thinking that they operate similarly to what has been shown on television and that is generally NOT how the court operates.
  • Because many are heading into court not understanding the consequences of the litigation.
  • Because many do not understand the court rules.
  • Because many do not know where to even FIND court rules.
  • Because attorneys have this knowledge and are not able to share their knowledge because of the perception of high costs.
  • Because this will lead to even more barriers to justice which will lead to greater perception that the courts only help people or companies with lots of money.

And that pains me. And it pains many of my attorney friends.

Sure, there’s always a greedy attorney joke out there. About an Ambulance chaser. About a Scheister/Shyster.

Go ahead. Tell the joke, even if it’s in your head. Laugh or chuckle a bit. Then come back to this blog.

Welcome back. Contrary to all you’ve read or heard, MOST, MOST, not all, but MOST attorneys enter the profession to help. It may be to help a specific person – maybe a family member. It may be to help a group of people. And, if you think about it, law and attorneys function precisely TO ASSIST.

Which leads to my attorney friends.

BIG DISCLAIMER: I AM AN ATTORNEY. MY HUSBAND IS ALSO AN ATTORNEY. MY COUSIN IS AN ATTORNEY. MY BROTHER HAS HIS LAW LICENSE.

I have many friends who are currently practicing law. Some are practicing in large firms. Others are solo practitioners. Yet others are government attorneys. And many of them work for non-profit legal service entities.

And we’re all talking. (ok, attorneys do love to talk) We’re all talking about the economy. We’re talking about most of us would not be able to afford to hire ourselves. This is where we all have the nervous giggle, no more of a titter.

It’s true. That’s why I say, it’s time to seriously consider UNBUNDLED LEGAL SERVICESThe term refers to a broad range of discrete tasks that an attorney might undertake such as: advice, negotiation, document review, document preparation and limited representation.

This will not abate the current fiscal crisis, but it may help people as they enter the civil legal system. Any other ideas? Anyone?

-RFW

To read about Unbundled Legal Service in Canada recently in the news, click here.

CRBR Features South Carolina Interactive Foreclosure Map

For those of us who enjoy interactive websites, Columbia Regional Business Report (CRBR) has one that details foreclosure data for South Carolina.

While it may not be as much fun as an online IQ test or popcap game, it does offer some insight into the problem facing many South Carolinians as we work through the recession.

Thanks CRBR for posting this.

-RFW

More on Public Law Service in Recession

Thanks much to CDO Newswire at Berkeley Law for pointing out to us this article at Slate! In this recession-era, it is as important as ever to assist graduating students whose interest is sparked by public interest law.

Most will agree that the need is great but how will the new attorneys be compensated?

How will new attorneys pay off their exorbitant student loans? The average law student debt is $100,000 according to Forbes article “The Great College Hoax.”

If we are to ensure the future of public interest law, we must ensure that future attorneys are able to afford the practice of law. The Slate article offers some hope for new graduates in this difficult time. Especially when the statement below is accurate.

 Lawyers working for nonprofits earn approximately $35,000 less per year.

-RFW

Views of the Recession

www.law.com paints a colorful canvas with its national portrait of 3Ls who speak out about job prospects in this market.  The article, The View From 3L: Law students set for graduation face the future with eyes wide open by Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal was published here on January 27, 2009.

I recommend it for law students as well as practicing attorneys or prospective employers.

-RFW