The Problem is the System – Not the Cost of Lawyers


Zero Hedge ran this post last week about most Americans not being able to afford lawyers. It’s not an unusual take.
Stories like these suggest the problem is attorneys have priced themselves out of the market. I disagree. The problem is the civil justice system is not equipped to solve most people’s legal problems.
Consider this quote:
Most civil cases are usually about debt collection, landlord tenant disputes and home foreclosures. Lawyers will build their cases around litigants inexperience and inability to hire competent counsel.
Terry Lawson, a legal aid attorney in Missouri said: “These guys know they’re going to win. Their hope of hopes is that nobody will go get lawyers.”
The first paragraph is true. The second is true, but not the whole story.
As a reminder, lawyers aren’t magicians. Occasionally, an attorney can seemingly pull a rabbit out of a hat. That doesn’t make her a magician. In all likelihood, she will not repeat it in the next case.
The person looking for the lawyer in the debt collection usually owes the debt. Same for the tenant in the landlord-tenant dispute. Same for the homeowner subject to foreclosure. They are going to lose–with or without a competent attorney. So the creditor or landlord doesn’t really care whether the defendant gets a lawyer.
It’s also no surprise the consumer defendant can’t pay an attorney–no matter how much the attorney charges. If they could afford an attorney, they could pay their debt.
Lawyers want to help their clients. We crave job satisfaction and abhor feeling like we aren’t making a difference. These feelings don’t jibe with charging a client who is going to lose.
Who wants to charge a couple of thousand dollars to represent a client in a debt collection the client is going to lose anyway? How will that help the client?
In many of those disputes, the

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