PROPOSED RULE CHANGES THAT MAY AFFECT YOU
August 17, 2010 § 10 Comments
The Mississippi Supreme Court is considering two rule changes, one of which will definitely affect you, and the other might indirectly.
The first is a change to Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct that would make pro bono service mandatory and would increase the fee to be paid in lieu of doing pro bono work from $200 to $500.
The second is a change to the appellate rules to increase the pro hac vice admissions fees from $200 to $500.
Your comments are invited by the Supreme Court, and may be submitted via this link.
If you don’t care what I think about these measures, stop reading here.
My opinion is that it is a good thing to make some level of pro bono service a professional requirement. And no, I am not talking about the deadbeat clients who will not pay their fees and are losses on your books. I am talking about the deliberate decision to volunteer through the Mississippi Pro Bono Project or to give your services free to a needy litigant or non-profit who needs legal help and legitimately can not pay. The numbers of pro se litigants are growing every day; if you don’t believe me, ask any Chancery Clerk or judge. Every time I ask a pro se litigant why they did not get an attorney, the answer is the same: “I can’t afford a lawyer.” Mandatory pro bono attacks the problem at its source by providing access to a lawyer, which in turn means access to court, to people who otherwise would not have it. And I am not talking about taking on an anti-trust suit or the like. You can do a couple of simple no-fault divorces and do a lot of good, both for the client and for the court. (Side note … I have a blog post coming about the dimensions of the pro se problem and one approach to solving it).
As for the $500, I think the practical effect will be that a lot of solo and small-firm practitioners and small-town lawyers will end up doing pro bono work, and a lot of high-powered and big-city lawyers will buy their way out of their duty. On one level, I find it repulsive that it would work that way because it’s not fair to lawyers of modest means, and it’s repugnant to think that one can meet a professional and what I consider a moral obligation with filthy lucre. On another, more practical level, you have to admit that even if there were no “buyout” provison, and every lawyer were required to do pro bono, there would be lawyers of means who would shuffle their duty off on a subordinate. In that case, we might as well reap their money and do something worthwhile with it. And before you ask me, I do not know what the Supreme Court is doing with that money.
As for the fee for pro hac vice lawyers, I would not mind seeing it doubled, tripled or increased by ten or more. If there is litigation in Mississippi, out-of-state attorneys should have an incentive to turn it over to Mississippi lawyers. Too often the out-of-state lawyer pays the Mississippi attorney a pittance to be a figurehead, reaps the gold and scoots. I would like to see that pattern reversed.