Rethinking Private Attorney Involvement Through a 'Low Bono' Lens
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Those who frequent our courthouses and work with low and moderate - income individuals have no illusions about the large gap between the rhetoric of justice and the present reality of our legal system. All over the country, courts are plagued by long dockets, slashed personnel, scarce resources, and self-represented individuals who are not literate in the law and represent themselves in complex legal proceedings or transactions out of necessity. If the accessibility of the legal system remains the top priority for ensuring justice, then perhaps we must consider forging new alliances, healing the political wounds of previous generations, and expanding the discourse of access to justice to include the provision of affordable legal services by the private bar. If teachers, firefighters, social workers, and government employees cannot afford to hire an attorney to protect their parental, economic, or civil rights, the legal profession has a problem that it is obligated to address under the profession’s norms of conduct. This Article attempts to shift the lens of the legal services discussion from a narrow focus on free legal services to one that is more inclusive and responsive to the needs of both the legal consumer and the major private provider of legal services in this country: The "Main Street" lawyer. Addressing the "justice gap" problem requires us to be critical of existing structures, processes, and players, and to be willing to consider that perhaps our current paradigm can benefit from agitation. The paradigm shift advocated in this Article does not intend to discredit the importance of federal government subsidies of legal aid to the poor. Such subsidies are critical to preserving justice for that population. However, it does seek to push the legal services community into a more diverse and inclusive discussion that incorporates the non-poor client community that needs affordable legal services and the attorneys who serve them. Both constituencies are critical political players in a national discourse on legal service delivery. A mixed-model legal services delivery program must give these groups a stake in order to successfully advance an agenda that also benefits the poor. The development of such an agenda requires greater focus on Main Street lawyers, reduced-fee models, client preferences, and the factors that drive the cost of legal services.
Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review
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