Saturday, January 2, 2010

New York Times Editorial on Managing the Increasing Number of Pro Se Litigants

New Hampshire Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr. and California Chief Justice Ronald M. George published an OpEd in the New York Times, entitled "A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers," regarding handling the increasing number of pro se litigants.  In addition to increasing access to counsel, the Chief Justices discussed the idea of unbundling legal services and permitting lawyers to engage in "limited scope representation" by representing the client in only part of the case.

The Chief Justices point out that: 

"some lawyers have expressed concern that limited legal representation will encourage litigants to dissect their cases in an effort to save money, sacrificing quality representation that the litigant might otherwise be able to afford. We have also heard the argument that by offering too much assistance to self-represented litigants, the courts themselves are undermining the value of lawyers and the legal profession. Apparently, some are concerned that the court system will become so user-friendly that there will be no need for lawyers."

However, the Chief Justices expressed their view that the benefits to permitting limited scope representation might outweigh any of these criticisms, particularly in light of the increasing inability of many litigants to afford comprehensive legal services:

"Litigants who can afford the services of a lawyer will continue to use one until a case or problem is resolved. Lawyers make a difference and clients know that. But for those whose only option is to go it alone, at least some limited, affordable time with a lawyer is a valuable option we should all encourage.  In fact, we believe that limited-scope-representation rules will allow lawyers — especially sole practitioners — to service people who might otherwise have never sought legal assistance. We also believe that carefully drafted ethical rules allowing lawyers to handle part of a case give the legal profession an opportunity to help the courts address the ever-growing number of litigants who cross our thresholds."


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