My future law school classmates, kids with stars in their eyes, told me during that orientation, that their purpose in life is to serve the people, the indigent, those deprived by the government or "by the rich" and "by the corporations", of their civil rights.
Yet, by the end of law school, reality settled in in the form of student loans, and my law school class, those kids who were so eager to work for the poor and against infringements upon civil rights by the government, "the rich" and "the corporations", went, in their overwhelming majority, to work for the government, the rich, and the corporations.
In the law review article by law professor Professor Lisa Nicholson - who provides excellent references to other materials and excellent statistics, but makes illogical conclusions from her own information (that the "justice gap" should be bridged by forced labor of attorneys and by increase of attorney registration fees and bar dues) - Professor Nicholson provides astounding figures:
- over 60 million people in the U.S., per year, cannot afford legal representation, and
- while the legal profession claims that it is not a business, and that its main purpose is to "serve the public" rather than work towards a bottom-line, the legal profession is stratified - with an overproduction of lawyers, and great competition over positions in rich law firms, and, on the other hand, with shortage of lawyers for the poor (1 full time attorney working for the poor per 14,000 of indigent litigants).
- The promise of 42 U.S.C. 1988 to attract attorneys into representing the poor without pay in civil rights lawsuits against the government, in the hope of being reimbursed at the end of litigation, results in:
- dismissals of most of civil rights actions based on this or that judicially created barrier - so the attorney who undertook litigation for free, does not get paid under 42 U.S.C. 1988;
- sanctions imposed upon civil rights attorneys for plaintiffs for "frivolous conduct" - "frivolous conduct" being either novel constitutional arguments, or constitutional argument based on precedent that courts do not want to acknowledge - naturally, the civil rights attorney does not get paid under 42 U.S.C. 1988 and remains with nothing;
- clients in civil rights litigation, those same clients who did not pay the attorney at the outset, pointing out that either they will pay themselves, or the attorney will be reimbursed through 42 U.S.C. 1988, do not pay, fire the attorney before the end of litigation, and settle the case on a condition that they do not apply for attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988 - and courts rule that attorney fees of the attorney who was cheated out of them, do not belong to the attorney, but to the client, because 42 U.S.C. 1988 gives the clients, and not the attorneys, to apply for legal fees, and, if the attorney was fired for cause or for no cause, the attorney has no recourse to use 42 U.S.C. 1988 and get paid. Under 42 U.S.C. 1988 an attorney who did not represent the client from the beginning to the end of litigation, do not have any rights (and they can be dismissed by the client without cause at any time during litigation) - and the client, being an indigent, will provide no hope of recovery; so the civil rights attorney can easily get cheated out of his or her payment under 42 U.S.C. 1988;
- even when clients do not want to discharge the civil rights attorney, the court can revoke the attorney's license and deprive the clients of their civil rights attorney - and the attorney of his or her legal fee for years of representation under 42 U.S.C. 1988;
- even when a civil rights attorney represented a client from beginning to end of litigation, the court may, out of spite, delay ruling upon the legal fee, forcing the attorney into bankruptcy - as it happened to California civil rights attorney Patricia Barry, the attorney who gave all women in the U.S. the gift of protection of law from sexual harassment in the workplace, and who, after winning the case in the U.S. Supreme Court, was waiting, on remand, for 1.5 years for a decision on legal fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988, while she was experiencing financial hardships and finally had to file for bankruptcy.
It is apparent that the legal elite does not care about the fate of indigent litigants, or about the fact that regulation of attorneys under the guise of protecting the clients do not protect 61 million pro se litigants who, as a result of that regulation, and the resulting monopoly established by the legal profession for itself, cannot afford a court representative.
And, it is apparent that, despite all odds, there are still people who want to serve the poor - but who are undercut by the government every step of the way, despite lip service of "supporting" those who want to do "public service" and represent the poor in court.
I am confident that 200 years from now, when none of us currently living are alive any more, regulation of attorneys that created
- overproduction of attorneys for the rich (over 110,000 law schools students are reported as of this year alone),
- underproduction of attorneys for the poor, and
- persecution of attorneys for the poor by attorneys for the rich under the guise of "regulating" the legal profession,
I only hope that the inevitable agony of attorney regulation, happens quicker and results in less trauma and loss of rights to the people.