The knock on lawyers is there are too many of them. This is a common perception especially in the US, where there are almost three times the number of attorneys per capita than in the country, Great Britain, that ranks second on that list. California's 170,000 active attorneys are equal to the legal populations of Germany and France combined.
But while it may be true that US lawyers are unevenly dispersed -- this is also, by way of comparison, true of bloggers -- it would be flat wrong to suggest there are enough lawyers, let alone too many of them.
Since 1963, when the Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that indigent criminal defendants are entitled to free counsel, the increase in US inmates has outpaced the increase in lawyers nearly two-to-one. Today, there are 2.4 million people incarcerated in the United States -- many deserving, many not. Minorities are, not surprisingly, overrepresented. Black women, for instance, are three to four times more likely than white women to be incarcerated.
'A REAL MISMATCH'
In an interview with Logikcull earlier this year, Kenneth Grady, the Lean Law Evangelist at Seyfarth Shaw, stated the case like this: "In the legal industry in general, we are struggling with a huge -- an overwhelming -- societal demand for legal services. The legal profession has not been able to meet that demand.
"We have a real mismatch," he said. "We have about 1.2 million lawyers in the US and 2 million globally. But if you look at the demand for legal services beyond just the corporate world, where some of us tend to exist a bit more, 80 percent of the needs of low income individuals are not being met, and the majority of legal needs of middle-income individuals are not being met."
A recent headline in the Legal Skills Prof Blog put it succinctly: "There's no glut of lawyers; instead it's a 'miserable fit' between the economics of practice and the unmet needs of the poor."
In federal courts, the discrepancies are likely more pronounced. Retired federal judge John Facciola told Logikcull earlier this year that "in my 17 years, I saw very few cases involving what I would call the middle class of America, except in those cases where lawyers were serving on a contingency basis."
And, of course, the explosion of data and the need to preserve, search and produce it has only imposed a heavier, more ominous burden. Facciola, to illustrate that point, conjured the sad-but-true tale of military families who parted with $86,000 just to provide a few Facebook posts to the parties they sued over dilapidated housing.
"Certainly I am in despair over how the ordinary lawsuit between a single plaintiff and a moderate-sized corporation can possibly go forward unless we figure out a way to get the costs of discovery down and make them more manageable," he lamented.
Given this state of affairs, it is all the more important, to lift up, acknowledge, and encourage the lawyers and legal professionals who are working on their own dimes to bring justice to those who can't afford it. These are the people and groups who serve not with an eye toward headlines or bottom lines, but to, as a close colleague puts it, Help The Cause.
This week marks the annual pro bono celebration, the goals of which, according to the American Bar Association, are to:
1. "Recruit more pro bono volunteers and increase legal services to poor and vulnerable people.
2. Mobilize community support for pro bono.
3. Foster collaborative relationships.
4. And recognize the pro bono efforts of America's lawyers."
That's a noble agenda to which we'd like to contribute. If you're representing a client who can't afford discovery, or know of others who are, please reach out. Logikcull works with pro bono groups across the country who seek to ensure that equal justice is not just a function of privilege, but a right for all.
To these servants of the greater good, we commend you on a job well done.
Logikcull pro bono accounts, which come standard with unlimited users and 10 GB of data, are available on our Pro Bono page below.