As reported in various stories on the Access for Justice blog (accesstojustice.net):
All of these efforts' stated purpose is to make legal services more available and affordable to those who need assistance. Of course, this begs the question of all the other low-cost avenues for such assistance now available, from court-appointed lawyers to pro bono programs by firms and legal access groups to legal clinics staffed by law school students. But the larger issue is deciding when or to what extent legal fees are too high to be affordable.
An attorney in any given area of practice, at any given firm, can charge for services at an hourly rate, a flat fee, a contingency fee, or a mixture of those and other billing methods.
The amount of those charges, of course, can vary widely. The only requirement, according to Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5, is that "a lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee."
The code defines "reasonableness" by such factors as the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly.
For the average client, there is little price sensitivity in choosing an attorney. Most lawyer-client relationships result from referrals from trusted friends or from other factors, such as the perception of legal ability. Typically, when it comes to the most urgent and important matters, price does not matter. The client's options are limited and the perception of need is high. When matters are serious and the client's family, finances or freedom are at stake, the client will choose the one he thinks will do the best job.
Given all these considerations, the creation of an entirely new class of legal service providers seems unnecessary. If clients know what is at stake in their legal matter, the Internet or the phone book can provide access to a lawyer who will handle it.
Creating non-lawyers to do the same job would seem to invite trouble for both clients and for the profession.
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