Is justice affordable?

This post at LexingtonLawyers highlights a real struggle in the legal community between greed and the value of services. It is true that for many impoverished Americans, legal representation is out of reach. Lawyers should assist in pursuing justice for the poor by doing pro bono work. I interviewed at one biglaw firm in Louisville, Kentucky where I inquired about their pro bono program. The interviewer told me that they “do not have time to do pro bono work.” I was not offered the position which was likely a blessing to both of us.

On the other side is the reality that the law is complicated and we attorney’s work very hard in law school. I know this will anger some physicians, but in my law class was a former cardio-vascular surgeon who had a physical problem that prevented him from continuing to do surgery. He told me that law school was more intellectually challenging than medical school had been. I only report what he said – I cannot personally make the comparison, but I do know it was a tough three years. Attorney’s need to be fairly compensated for this expertise.

Too often, I see people who could afford to invest a few hundred dollars into some legal advice attempt to save money by doing it themselves. Sometimes, this backfires and it costs them a few thousand dollars or more in the long run. A friend recently called me from court with a desperate plea for guidance on a child support matter. I quickly gave him the answer he needed and it saved him more than a hundred dollars a month. As one Fayette Family Court judge recently told a person insisting on representing themselves, “You wouldn’t operate on yourself if you needed surgery would you?” It isn’t a perfect example (remember the first Rambo movie? – he was handy as self-surgery), but the point is well taken.

The answer is balance. The $600,000 dollar bill discussed at LexingtonLawyers is one extreme. The law firm in Louisville with the big name that had no time for pro bono work is an extreme. Justice demands that attorney’s find balance by providing value commensurate with their fees and doing a share of pro bono work for the poor.

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