The middle class is often underserved when it comes to retaining legal services. Individuals at or below poverty level qualify for pro bono services, and the wealthy have the resources to pay. Federal funding for free legal assistance is distributed by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Unfortunately for the middle class, funds are limited and are used primarily for pro bono services. Funding from Congress is unlikely to increase because the allocation of funds is dependent on the federal poverty guidelines. Relying on the federal guidelines is erroneous because the guidelines have not been updated since the 1960s, and therefore does not accurately represent the modern standard of living. Furthermore, indigent civil litigants are underserved because lawyers decline to volunteer some of their time, even though Rule 6.1 of the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct encourages lawyers to donate time. Programs to assist low bono clients—clients who do not qualify for pro bono services, and cannot afford a legal retainer—are necessary to reduce the justice gap. An effective program that should be duplicated is the Access to Justice Referral Service (ATJLRS). ATJLR acts as a third party to match potential clients with a qualified attorney. Under ATJLRS, lawyers will voluntarily participate and agree to charge a reasonable, flat legal fee. Potential clients will be interviewed and referred to one of the participating attorneys. Using a system that is similar to ATJLR is imperative to ensure that millions of middle class citizens may finally have access to legal counsel.
The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice
Steven A. Krieger,
Low Bono Legal Counsel: Closing The Access To Justice Gap By Providing The Middle Class With Affordable Attorneys.,
Available at: https://commons.stmarytx.edu/thescholar/vol18/iss2/1
St. Mary's University School of Law