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Monday, July 25, 2005

Court appointed lawyer fees

Here's a post from Carolyn Elefant at the My Shingle blog. She's critical of Mass. court appointed counsel who have been complaining rates. This is what she says:

Court appointed lawyers can't expect a guaranteed stream of revenue at private rates. It's a trade off. If lawyers want the security of a flow of cases for which they don't have to advertise or market, then they can settle for court appointed work at a lower rate. If they want to make more, then they need to go out and find the clients who are going to pay - and stop asking the captive ones to fork up even more money.

And as I've always said, court appointed work is interesting and a good way to pay the rent early on or even a way to do work that's got a pro bono element without working entirely for free. But if you want to step up to a successful practice, your plan has got to include weaning yourself from court appointed work. After all, why limit yourself to $84,000 a year when you could possibly make ten times that much?

Of course, being a public defender for my entire professional career thusfar, I'm biased on this subject. I see her point but what she doesn't acknowledge is an inherent tension that will arise when a person carries a mixed caseload of court appointed work and retained work that pays at a higher rate. Which clients are going to get the more effective representation?