Monday, June 5, 2017
Much discussion among judges and lawyers these days is devoted to access to justice. The growing divide in the US between those with resources and those without is particularly apparent in access to legal services. Hourly billing at rates of $400.00 and up are unaffordable even for those previously considered middle class. In many cases, Judges report litigants self-representing in up to 80% of cases that involve family law and housing. More and more of those in need of legal services to protect basic human needs are unable to find legal help. Particularly hard pressed are those who do not qualify for help from Legal Services organizations and those who do not have funds for significant retainers.
Addressing the need for affordable legal services is part of the education of human rights lawyers. When viewed through a human rights lens, adjusting ones practice to provide low cost, yet competent representation, permits clients to secure the principles voiced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The ability to make a living while protecting clients' human rights must be incorporated into legal education. Technology permits lawyers to reduce overhead in many ways, including the ability to work from home and renting a conference room as needed. Technology also broadens the geographical range one can build a client base, now that video conferencing is routine. Technology has made the delivery of services to those of limited means a realistic option. One way to create Human Rights lawyers is to show students and new graduates how to have a practice that will address crucial human rights and sustain them financially. Bill Henderson and others have written extensively on changing the delivery of legal services. His arguments and advice also support human rights lawyering.