Monday, 26 July 2010

Cooley Law School 10CORE Project

One positive by-product of the recessionary economy in the United States has been the emergence of innovative legal assistance programs geared to the needs of those underserved by the system. The 10CORE Project in the State of Michigan is an excellent example of such an innovative idea.

In the State of Michigan, a recent study by the State Bar found that while more than three million people qualify for free help from legal aid programs, three out of every seven who request assistance are turned away for lack of resources. This denial of legal assistance is occurring at a time when the housing market in Michigan is facing a record number of foreclosures and, not surprisingly, also a record number of mortgage/ foreclosure fraudulent schemes.

To address this issue, Professor Neville-Ewell, a former general counsel of the Detroit Housing Commission and former chairperson of the Michigan State Housing Development, started the 10CORE Project at the Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The project, which is in its infancy, pairs volunteer attorneys with law students to write articles on various aspects of real estate transactions, to be published on a website for the general public. The purpose of the articles is to educate state residents on the protocols of real estate transactions in an effort to make them less likely to succumb to mortgage and foreclosure fraud.

The success of the 10CORE Project depends, in no small part, on the willingness of lawyers to devote time to the program. Because the Michigan Bar has a pro bono service requirement, there is significant optimism that the goals of the Project can be achieved. If the 10CORE Project is successful, it provides an interesting model for attacking a variety of other legal problems where education of those unable to obtain legal assistance is critical.

Posted by
Patricia N Blair
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Low Bono versus Pro Bono: A Some or Nothing Approach?

Low bono, or reduced fee representation for individuals whose incomes are too high to qualify for legal aid, has received growing attention in recent years. Solo and small firm attorneys who regularly provide discounted services or instalment plans for lower income clients have argued that this “stealth pro bono” should be taken into account when calculating bar-mandated pro bono hours.

Debates regarding the efficacy of low bono versus pro bono in fostering access to justice have also emerged. In a recent law review article, prominent low bono advocate Luz Herrera argues that: “Pro bono models do not sufficiently address the inadequacy of affordable legal services by the private bar” and that a “shift from a pro bono to a low bono legal services model would improve access to the judicial system…” Luz Herrera, Rethinking Private Attorney Involvement Through a “Low Bono” Lens, 43 Loyola L.A. L. Rev. 2009, 1.

As full-service low bono law firms pick up steam, will we come to a “some” or “nothing” crossroads? Should certain types of services remain pro bono regardless of ability to pay “something”, i.e. domestic violence?

Posted by
Patrice Dziire
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee