A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers

By John T. Broderick Jr. and Ronald M. George
Op-Ed Contributors — The New York Times — January 2, 2010

As the economy has worsened, the ranks of the self-represented poor have expanded. Unrepresented litigants now also include many in the middle class and small-business owners who unexpectedly find themselves in distress and without sufficient resources to pay for the legal assistance they need.

As judges (Broderick and George), we believe more needs to be done to meet this growing challenge … California took a major step forward in October when it became the first state to recognize as a goal the right to counsel in certain civil cases.

But this is only the beginning. It is essential that we promote other efforts to close the “justice gap.”

One such effort involves the “unbundling” of legal services, which allows lawyers to unbundle their services and take only part of a case, a cost-saving practice known as “limited-scope representation” that, with proper ethical safeguards, is responsive to new realities.

What could be wrong with this? Well, some lawyers have expressed concern that limited legal representation will encourage litigants to dissect their cases in an effort to save money, sacrificing quality representation that the litigant might otherwise be able to afford. It has also been argued that courts will be undermining the value of lawyers and the legal profession.

We (Broderick and George) disagree and believe that for DIYs, at least some limited, affordable legal counsel is a valuable option.

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