Written By: Brandy Miller | April 27, 2017 | No Comments
The cost of legal services is of great concern for the legal community. The cost of trying a case is prohibitive for far too many people, leaving many people without a realistic chance to get a fair day in Court for all kinds of disputes. This is a problem for our country, but the problem is deeper than most understand.
First and foremost, the overhead of running a legal practice is at its highest in history. This directly affects an attorney’s ability to provide more affordable legal services. The cost of legal malpractice insurance is sky high, and so is the cost of marketing. In the old days, an attorney could pretty much open up his office, gain a little experience, and the business rolled in. This is simply not the case anymore. Yellow Pages advertisements are at such a high cost that many law firms are simply choosing not to advertise there anymore, preferring to simply spend more money on marketing their website. However, getting your website noticed in today’s highly competitive environment is increasingly difficult and costly. As a consumer for any product, we take for granted the ability to simply do an internet search and within a short period of time have the product and service we are looking for. What consumers can’t appreciate is how much money and time went into getting that website in front of the consumer on an internet search. A business must get their name and website in front of people, but paying a company to optimize the website to get it on the search result page is getting very expensive.
Factor in fees for electronic legal research abilities, administrative personnel, and rent, and its not uncommon for a small law firm to be spending well over a hundred thousand dollars in annual operation costs before they even see a client. A law firm must charge enough to cover these costs and still make a living. Contrary to most perceptions, most attorneys are not living a life of excess wealth. Its just simply too expensive to run a law practice.
So what to do? Many people need more affordable legal services, but a lawyer can’t stay in business unless he charges enough to overcome the overhead expenses. The Pennsylvania Bar Association has attempted to remedy this problem by mandating that all lawyers take pro bono cases as is appropriate, but this only solves a fraction of the problem. Small claims courts, called District Magistrate Courts in Pennsylvania, offer the average citizen a quick and less expensive way to litigate a case up to twelve thousand dollars. Many attorneys volunteer their services with organizations such as Mid Penn Legal Services, which offers free legal services to people who cannot afford them.
I used to support an idea for an insurance program for legal services, kind of an HMO legal insurance plan. But in recent years, I have changed my mind. The reason is simple. In today’s society, a significant number of people would sue anyone and everyone but for the cost associated with litigation. In other words, the high costs of litigation is seemingly the only reason our Courts aren’t completely overwhelmed with lawsuits. In this regard, maybe the costs of litigation is a good thing. It usually limits lawsuits to important matters worth expending the money to sue. And goodness knows we don’t need more lawsuits.
To be certain, there’s no easy answer to this problem. What do you think?