Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Lawyers Being Rendered Obsolete?

Though $1,000/hour billing rates aren't scaring off large firm clients, the high cost of lawyers' fees, particularly in recessionary economic times, is a major factor driving the growth of pro se representation, reports USA Today.  Though many individuals handled legal matters without lawyers, particularly in small claims court, what's really changed, notes the article, is the increase in family law and domestic cases where lawyers aren't involved.  For example, in San Diego, the number of unrepresented parties in family court cases went up 70 percent in 2004 from 54 percent in the early 1990s.  And a 2004 study by the New Hampshire Supreme Court task force said 85 percent of civil cases in district court and 48 percent in superior court were tried without lawyers.

Courts have grown more responsive to the needs of self-help litigants.  Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have set up self-help centers to assist pro se's with forms.  Many courts also offer training to judges on dealing with unrepresented litigants. 

Cost isn't the sole reason that people choose to proceed without lawyers.  A study by the National, a Canadian Bar Association magazine, also found that the Internet has made it easier for people to research legal matters on their own. 

What do you make of the pro se  trend?  Are these unrepresented litigants clients who could never have afforded lawyers anyway?  Are they better off handling these matters completely on their own, or would they be better off with low-cost services like DivorceDeli.com, which I blogged about last week?  Or perhaps, will certain types of legal services eventually be rendered obsolete?  I welcome your comments below.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 15, 2008 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Doctor Rating Site in U.K. Sets Off Controversy

You might call iwantgreatcare.org the Avvo for doctors. Just as Avvo allows clients to rate their attorneys, iwantgreatcare.org invites patients to grade their general practitioner. And just as Avvo has generated its share of controversy and lawsuits, so too has iwantgreatcare.org. Pulse.net is reporting that Carter-Ruck solicitors, which represents a group of 37 doctors, has written a cease-and-desist letter to the Web site's founder, "expressing grave concerns about the potential for inaccurate, irresponsible and defamatory allegations being published on the website." The letter concludes by warning of the firm's intent to file a lawsuit if any of its clients are defamed on the site. 

Does rating doctors raise the same concerns as rating lawyers?  Your thoughts are welcome in the comment section.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 15, 2008 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Blog Watch Scooped by New Member, New York Personal Injury Attorney

Oh man! Eric Turkewitz joined the Law.com Blog Network just a few days ago, and already, he's scooped me on getting the word out.  But then again, what do you expect from one of those aggressive, pushy New York Personal Injury Attorney types?

Actually, expect plenty.  Unlike other personal injury lawyers who use their blogs solely for soliciting clients, Turkewitz covers a wide range of topics.  One day, you might find him helping unveil Flea, a pediatrician who blogged pseudonymously during a malpractice trial and was eventually outed.  The next, he's fooling law professors and the legal media with a story about the Supreme Court Justices recusing themselves from a certiorari matter involving rotisserie baseball to avoid a conflict of interest due to their own participation in the league.  In fact, Turkewitz is such an energetic and varied blogger that he relaxes by running the New York marathon

Welcome aboard, Eric!

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 15, 2008 at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marginally More Family-Friendly Options for Lawyers Than MBAs

A recent study by UC Berkeley associate professor Catherine Wolfram, a member of the Haas Economic Analysis and Policy Group, found that MBAs are more likely than MDs, and marginally more likely than JDs to leave the workforce and stay home with their children. Wolfram's study, based on surveys of nearly 1,000 Harvard undergraduate alumni, found that 15 years after graduation, 28 percent of the women who went on to get MBAs were stay-at-home mothers, compared to 21 percent of JDs and only 6 percent of MDs.   One explanation offered for the disparity is that businesswomen work longer hours and must often travel, while doctors who work in private practices might have an easier time working part time.  In addition, the study also found that:

[L]awyers do appear to have more family-friendly alternatives available. JD mothers who remained in the labor force were more likely to switch careers while MBA moms were twice as likely to merely quit.

Since the study reflects only a seven percent difference in the opt-out rates of MBAs and JDs, the conclusion that law offers more family-friendly alternatives seems shaky.  At the same time, at least it's good to know that as gloomy as the prospects for work/life balance at law firms may seem, it could be worse.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 15, 2008 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

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