Pro Bono News

Legal Service Plans Deliver Wider Access to Justice

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Legal Service Plans Deliver Wider Access to Justice

"Much has been written about the access to justice problem in the United States. The primary focus has been access for the truly poor, the indigent, which is a serious problem. As any solo or small law firm attorney knows, however, the access to justice problem does not end there. Those above the poverty line, the middle class and to a great extent the so-called upper middle class, generally find access to an attorney unaffordable. The 2016 ABA study on Access to Justice concludes that 80-85% of legal needs are unrecognized or unmet because of this. This bad for the country’s future. It is often said that the United States has the greatest legal system in the world. Actually, according to the 2017 World Justice Project Report, the United States ranks 19th, between Chile and South Korea. Lawyers must turn this around for the good of the country. Not incidentally, such a turnaround would be great for lawyers; the untapped market is enormous.

The legal profession has tried to increase access. One so-called revolutionary idea was to allow advertising. It turns out that billboards regarding personal injury cases make nothing more affordable. The imposition of flat fees comes to mind. While these fees eliminate the subconscious desire to work slowly, in the end, such fees seem like little more than a rebranding of the same old hourly fee. Despite these attempts to reach a larger client base and lower client costs, access to justice remains problematic.

A solution that is increasingly embraced by lawyers and consumers is the development and use of legal services plans. I describe these plans and their benefits later in this article, but first, let’s look at some other proposed solutions and the problems associated with them.

Today we hear about different options for improving access to justice, including technology and further changes in the rules of professional responsibility. A combination of the two will go a long way to creating wider access to justice. But these options come with their own set of problems..."

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