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    State Bar Should Address Why Fewer People Hire Lawyers

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 10, October 2008


    Letters to the editor: The Wisconsin Lawyer publishes as many letters in each issue as space permits. Please limit letters to 500 words; letters may be edited for length and clarity. Letters should address the issues, and not be a personal attack on others. Letters endorsing political candidates cannot be accepted. Please mail letters to " Letters to the Editor," Wisconsin Lawyer, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158, fax them to (608) 257-4343, or org wislawyer wisbar email them .

    State Bar Should Address Why Fewer People Hire Lawyers

    In the September 2008 Wisconsin Lawyer, State Bar President Diane Diel wrote an excellent column in which she pointed out that fewer members of the public are hiring lawyers for their legal matters and instead more people are handling legal matters for themselves, even in the courtroom. Diel went on to warn that lawyers must work on increasing client access to affordable legal services or risk becoming irrelevant. In my view, she is correct, and perhaps the causes of this legal crisis need to be addressed as well; so here goes.

    Unlike the health care profession, which has limited the number of doctors and nurses by controlling the number of slots in medical schools and nursing schools, the legal profession has sat idle, while law schools have cranked out many more lawyers than the market can support. Again unlike the health care profession, which relies on most of its funding from private insurance and the government (Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' and government health programs, and so on), the legal profession tries to rely on the ability of people to pay their legal bills themselves. Furthermore, unlike heavily unionized professions, many lawyers are struggling without benefits and job security, and they must cope with a marketplace that has more lawyers than the marketplace can afford to support. These economic imbalances have crippled the legal profession, driving many lawyers to seek employment outside of law, and creating the tragic situation in which much of the public wants to use, but cannot afford to hire, a lawyer. Other lawyers struggle to pay their own bills, often without health benefits, and they too suffer under the existing chaos in the Wisconsin legal market.

    If we wish to address and correct the situation, then the State Bar must take five immediate steps. First, it should lobby for legal programs within Wisconsin that mirror the government-provided health care programs, which have so benefited health care employees and have increased access to medical services among the general public. Second, the State Bar should promote affordable legal insurance programs, voluntary for both the lawyers and the public who buys the insurance, which will bring in more clients to the Bar members and make legal services more affordable for the clients. Third, the State Bar should obtain better, more affordable medical and dental plans for its members using the leverage of group purchasing to drive down the costs for its members. Fourth, the State Bar should try to use its best efforts to reduce the number of lawyers being churned out by our law schools, which has created a tremendous marketplace imbalance between supply and demand. Fifth, the State Bar should encourage members of the public to hire lawyers, the same way that the Realtors® Association is now advertising on TV and radio to do the same for its members and the public.

    I respectfully believe that our profession is in crisis. We have lost a generation of young lawyers who have left the profession for the above reasons, and we have lost a generation of clients, who now increasingly regard legal services as too costly and, sadly, irrelevant. Let's fight to defend our profession, to better our own collective situations, and to make our services more affordable to the public.

    Charles Facktor,
    Unlisted address