Underemployed Lawyers Puzzle
I applaud OSB President Rich Spier for his message about lessening the access to justice gap by finding ways to get underemployed lawyers to represent people who can’t afford legal representation (“The Justice Gap,” February/March 2015). It is a problem that is not easy and likely will not be solved in the course of one presidency or with one program or task force. As a member of the growing constituency of so-called underemployed lawyers, our voice is often not heard in this conversation. We are often silent because we don’t want to rock the boat and get branded as complainers while we continue to search for full-time legal employment.
I personally don’t like the term underemployed as it implies there is something wrong with my current employment status. The term covers a wide variety of situations, from the new bar admittee turned solo practitioner out of necessity, to people like me who have full-time nonlawyer gigs while we interview with firms or agencies trying to find gigs as lawyers. The term also encompasses individuals who have jobs as lawyers, but are working at law firms that pay well below market and don’t cover bar dues and/or PLF coverage expenses.
There are two parts of the puzzle to the problem of underemployed lawyers. The first part is experience. The second part is financial. The bar has done some good work on the helping the experience side of things. I think more can be done to help financially. A couple issues back, John Gear mentioned expanding LRAP access (Letters, February/March 2015). I think this is a good idea. Let’s not narrow the idea of what public interest means. Put less restrictions on applying and the let the lawyers seeking LRAP money explain why what they do lessens the access to justice gap. Another area that could use help is making PLF coverage more affordable for new lawyers. This doesn’t necessarily mean dropping the cost — it could be as easy as allowing more payment options. (I can pay my auto insurance monthly. Why can’t my malpractice insurance be the same?)
I know funds are probably limited for things like this, but if we could come up with more solutions that actually got underemployed lawyers paid for performing legal work, I think our profession would be in much better shape.
David E. Smith, Keizer
Be a Positive Problem Solver
I just attended the Fifth Annual Conference of the Oregon Association of Collaborative Professionals, “Secrets of a Satisfying Family Practice,” in Portland. What a breath of fresh air to be in a room full of family law attorneys committed to problem solve and not participate in litigation at all. We learned about collaborative law, mediation and unbundling legal services.
There were brand new attorneys and also very experienced attorneys present, and each of us loves to practice family law. It was such a pleasure to be around professionals who are committed to the law and serving people in times of crisis. The attorneys are fulfilled because they are passionate about their work and practice wellness in their personal lives, too. It was an energizing event. I encourage attorneys to consider changing the way you practice family law; be a positive problem solver. It is the wave of the future.
Lillian Quinn, Bend
Remembering Ken Morrow
Edward Monks’ profile of Ken Morrow captured the essence of this humble man (“Remembering Ken Morrow,” June 2015). As a young lawyer only a few years out of law school, I was given the task of defending the starting quarterback from the University of Oregon from several serious felonies. I will never forget seeing Ken in his rumpled up suit sitting in the back of the courtroom during my closing argument. That is the kind of person he was. It was such a privilege and honor for me to have known him. I miss him.
Andrew Bates, Portland
Hats Off for ‘Magna Carta’ Article
The Magna Carta article written by Jack Landau (“Magna Carta Turns 800,” June 2015) is one of the most interesting articles I have read since I have been a member of the bar. Hats off to Justice Landau for that article.
Ron Greenen, Vancouver, Wash.