Underserved middle class could sustain underemployed law graduates

, The National Law Journal


One of the greatest challenges facing the legal profession is to facilitate an effective, broad-sale union of jobless lawyers with lawyerless clients.

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What's being said

  • Darren McKinney, American Tort Reform Association, Washington, D.C.

    If Mr./Ms. Avon truly favored "nip[ping] nasty situations in the bud," his/her personal injury bar colleagues would not fight so strenuously to outlaw arbitration. But of course, they do.

    Furthermore, whether lawsuit defendants are middle-class mom-and-pop shops or major corporations, every dollar they spend fending off speculative litigation is a dollar that won't go to productive use in the economy, unless you count the luxury vacation homes and private jets subsequently purchased by plaintiffs lawyers once they win discount coupons for their "clients" and millions for themselves.

    And finally, while the volume of tort litigation may arguably be "unrelated to legal fees," it is palpably influenced by reasonable limits on awards for noneconomic damages and contingency-fee percentages, tort reforms which are increasingly popular among state lawmakers determined to make their states more hospitable to wealth- and jobs-creating businesses and less hospitable to opportunistic parasites.

  • Avon

    Mr. McKinney misses the point.
    And his own organization's commissioned survey can't possibly elicit unbiased responses if its premise is that every lawsuit is "suffered" by society. Sure, it's true, in the 18th-century sense of meaning "freely tolerated." But ask a modern man if his suffering is enough, or too little? No way!

    The legal services Mr. McKinney seems to fear the most are lawsuits in which the middle class would be the plaintiffs. (In fact, most middle class people are much more likely to be defendants.)
    Assuming that he really means tort litigation filed against his principal supporters, then his fear is groundless. Tort litigation is unrelated to legal fees; tort lawyers work on contingency fees. (I bring medical malpractice cases, and even wealthy victims elect to pay me on contingency. Which is just as well for everyone, as I'd rather not feel I have to take any frivolous cases. I can reject them if I'm not to be paid hourly.)

    Providing lawyers to the middle class can only benefit everyone by preventing injustice, avoiding the financial and legal wreckage caused by failure to prevent disputes or nip nasty situations in the bud, unburdening the courts of pro se parties, and who knows how else. The ATRA has no business objecting, and its opposition is sheer knee-jerk paranoia.

  • Darren McKinney, American Tort Reform Association, Washington, D.C.

    Among many other attitudes and beliefs of registered voters about lawyers and litigation, a new national survey commissioned by my organization (see details at www.atra.org) indicates that 78% of them believe our nation already "suffers too many lawsuits," while only 8% believe it "suffers too few" and 3% believe it "suffers about the right amount." Furthermore, 7 of 10 voters say lawsuits make it both harder to do business in America and harder for U.S. businesses to compete globally and attract investment. Thus the notion, as generally advanced here by Mr. Coffey, that making more lawyers more readily available to more would-be plaintiffs seems to fly in the face of the national mood about lawyers and lawsuits. Instead, we ought to enact meaningful medical liability reforms nationwide and begin imploring our bright young people to forget law school and take up medicine instead. As more of the aging baby boom moves toward retirement, the looming shortage of doctors will bring true calamity if we don't act now to head it off.

  • Vicki

    There needs to be a major curriculum overhaul in most law schools and it would help if the state bars would pair new members with mentors (heaven help the new lawyer who thinks s/he can just start practicing straight out of law school.) Also, people can't live on just air and water - new grads are saddled with ENORMOUS debt - they need INCOME in the meantime while they are building their practice. However, for those that can get off the ground, small law practice can be quite lucrative. A friend of mine recently turned down the GC job for a major city in NY state because it would involve a massive pay cut.

  • williamsonday

    But, good my brother,
    Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
    Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
    Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
    Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
    And recks not his own rede.
    Hamlet, Act I, scene III

  • unperson

    what pure tripe and nonsense. So much nonsense, so little time.

    Gee, if only those money-hungry law grads would lower themselves to work for 100 dollars....what tripe.

    I went broke as a solo out of law school. Spent my life savings advertising to get clients. Not ONE client from advertising. I had two signs at one of the busiest intersections in one of the biggest cities in america. The signs had my number, name and practice areas.

    How many calls in the 8 months before I went broke? Two. How many of those two became clients? Zero.

    Magna cum laude JD down the drain. Now I work in a cubicle with the uneducated all around me.
    The JD degree will shut you out of many non-law jobs.

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