Utah State Bar Modest Means Lawyer Referral Program

By Michelle V. Harvey

The Utah State Bar is launching a new program for those who are unable to afford full price legal services but are also unable to qualify for pro bono services. The Modest Means Lawyer Referral Program will provide members of the public who fall below 300 percent of the poverty line with a referral to an attorney who is willing to provide representation at a reduced rate. The program will benefit both people who need legal representation and attorneys who can use the program to build a client base and expand their practice areas. The courts will also benefit by having fewer pro se litigants.

The Modest Means Program will have three groups of participants: clients, attorneys, and an advisory panel. Each type of participant has a set of rules for participation. This article will describe each of the three groups and what is required from those taking part in the program.

THE CLIENTS

Standard attorney fees are beyond the reach of the average family and the Modest Means Program is designed to help those who fall into the gap between being able to afford standard attorney fees and qualifying for pro bono assistance. Clients who take part in the program must be below 300 percent of the poverty line. To some this may seem like a high threshold for receiving reduced cost services however, the numbers demonstrate the need for the program. In 2013, for a single person 300 percent of the poverty line would equate to a gross income of $33,510 a year, for a family of five it would be $69,150. Those who fall below this level of yearly income usually appear before the courts pro se because they cannot afford an attorney for legal matters but do not qualify for pro bono legal assistance, which requires a client to be below 125 percent of the poverty line. The Modest Means Program will make it possible for those who fall below this line to have legal representation.

The potential client must fill out a Modest Means Referral Request in order to receive a referral for an attorney. The request form asks general questions to determine if the client falls below 300 percent of the poverty line. These questions include household size, sources of income, and assets, as well as questions regarding exempt money that may be used to pay child support or spousal maintenance. The potential client is also asked about the opposing party and their counsel to prevent conflicts in the referral. The potential client must submit the request along with the $25 referral fee to the Utah State Bar Modest Means Program. Once the request has been received and approved, the Bar will contact the potential client with a referral. It is then the client’s responsibility to contact the attorney to whom they were referred.

THE ATTORNEYS

In today’s legal market attorneys are finding it harder and harder to find work. The Modest Means Program will help attorneys who are willing to take a reduced fee find clients and broaden their client base. In order for an attorney to be a participant in the program, he or she must be in good standing with the Bar, maintain professional liability insurance, and adhere to the Modest Means Program fee structure.

The Modest Means Program’s fee structure is based on the annual income of those receiving the referrals. If the prospective client has an annual income that falls below 200 percent of the poverty line the attorney agrees to charge up to $50.00 an hour or 35 percent of their normal flat fee for a particular service. If the prospective client is below 300 percent but above 200 percent of the poverty line the attorney agrees to charge up to $75.00 an hour or 50 percent of their normal flat fee. This scale has been developed so that the attorney can determine what they believe the client can afford on an individual basis and charge accordingly.

The attorney must also fill out a registration form in order to participate in the program. The registration form asks for attorney’s contact information, bar number, malpractice insurance carrier and employer. The form also asks the attorney to state which areas of the law and areas of the state in which they are willing to take referrals. The form is turned into the Utah State Bar Modest Means Program. After the Bar staff confirms that the attorney is in good standing, their information is put into a system used to provide referrals.

THE ADVISORY PANEL

The Advisory Panel is a group of attorneys who are willing to help answer questions for those attorneys taking cases through the Modest Means Program. The attorneys on this panel must have at least seven years experience in the area of the law in which they are agreeing to give advice. Attorneys who have taken cases may contact the Modest Means Program stating that they have a question in a certain area of the law. Bar staff will then give them the contact information of one of the Advisory Panel members. The members of this panel should expect to field questions of varying magnitude and should know that it is on average a small time commitment, usually only involving a short phone call.

The members of the Advisory Panel will also have to register to be part of the Modest Means Program. Advisory attorneys must be in good standing with the Bar and must have practiced a minimum of seven years of practice in the area of the law in which they will give advice. The attorney will have to submit a registration form listing which areas of the law in which they are qualified to give advice. The registration form must be submitted to the Utah State Bar Modest Means Program and then the attorney will be put on the list of those attorneys who are willing to be contacted by attorneys taking modest means cases.

The Modest Means Program is currently looking to recruit attorneys looking to broaden their client base or those looking to mentor newer attorneys. If you would like to begin receiving referrals through the program please go to http://www.utahbar.org/modestmeans/modestmeansregistration.html and fill out the registration form. If you would like to be a member of the Advisory Panel, contact Michelle V. Harvey the Access to Justice Coordinator at the Utah State Bar by email at michelle.harvey@utahbar.org or by phone at 801.297.7049.

2012 Holiday Party

The Salt Lake County Bar Association’s annual holiday gala at the Salt Lake Country Club is a fantastic party, plain and simple.  The event’s popularity has soared in recent years, selling out almost as soon as the invitations are delivered.  This year, SLCBA hosted more than 200 guests, including many judges from both the Federal and State benches.  The signature cocktails and beautiful setting create a wonderful opportunity to share the holiday spirit with seldom seen colleagues before dinner, and the seated dinner provides everyone with a chance for more intimate conversation.  After dinner, the atmosphere heats up as nearly everyone flocks to the packed dance floor, where even the most buttoned-up amongst us cannot resist the sounds of The Metro Music Club featuring the amazing vocals of Joslyn.  In a season full of holiday parties and other social obligations, this one has become one of the finest highlights of the season.

Photos from this event are posted to our Facebook page here.

2012 New Lawyers Reception

The Salt Lake County Bar Association hosted its annual New Lawyers and Judges Reception on October 25, 2012 at the Alta Club in downtown Salt Lake. The event has become one of SLCBA’s most popular events, and with good reason, as there is not a better opportunity all year to get to know one another outside of the confines of law firms and courtrooms. This year, more than 200 new lawyers, experienced lawyers, and judges gathered to eat, drink, and socialize in one of the legal world’s few informal and relaxed settings. Chief Justice Durrant took the opportunity this year to remind the new lawyers of the valuable asset they possessed in their blank slate reputation, and of the need to protect that value from the discoloration that all too often results from the rough business of law. It would be hard to find a more valuable way for any attorney, new or experienced, to spend a few hours on a Wednesday evening.

Photos from this event are posted to our Facebook page here.

2012 Holiday Party

The Salt Lake County Bar Association

Cordially Invites You to Attend

Its Annual 

Holiday Dinner Dance

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Country Club

2400 East Country Club Drive, Salt Lake City 

RSVP to Ms. Nicalee Nelson at nnelson@vancott.com or (801) 237-0227

$75 per person for SLCBA members and guests/$85 per person for non-SLCBA members and guests

Limited Seating

RSVP required by November 26, 2012

Cocktails at 6:30 PM

Dinner at 7:30 PM

Dancing to Follow (Music by The Metro Music Club featuring Joslyn)

Black Tie Invited

President’s Message — Fall 2012

“This isn’t good or bad.  It’s just the way of things.  Nothing stays the same.” 

-Author Unknown

SLCBA President, Hon. Robert J. Shelby

Service organizations that fail periodically to re-evaluate the services they provide risk becoming irrelevant or obsolete.  Professional bar associations are no exception.  Under the extraordinary leadership of last year’s President, Laura Scott, the officers of your Salt Lake County Bar Association carefully examined virtually every aspect of our operations.  The results of the Utah State Bar 2011 Survey of Members included some surprising information about the current demographics of our Bar, and informed many changes to several of our longstanding programs.

This fully electronic version of our Bar & Bench newsletter provides one example of the changes adopted.  Many of you have been members of the Salt Lake County Bar Association long enough to remember the light blue card stock newsletters that used to arrive with your mail.  In recent years we gradually phased out print copies, and moved to electronic newsletters.  The formatting and functionality of this newsletter reflects further transition to a format we hope you will find more approachable, and easier to navigate.

Given the tremendous popularity of our judicial profiles, the Bar & Bench subcommittee assembled this first of its kind “judges only” version of our newsletter.  Save for this message and some calendar notes of our upcoming events, this entire newsletter is devoted to judges.  Our very own Justice Tongue offers below more wildly popular judicial wisdom, and we offer profiles of 5 (relatively) new judges.  Our members often comment that these profiles are interesting and informative, and we hope you enjoy this compilation.  Like our recent electronic newsletters, it will be available on our website for future reference.

Under the leadership of Judge Julie Lund, our Bar & Bench subcommittee is working on some new content ideas for our upcoming winter and spring newsletters.  Joining Judge Lund on our Bar & Bench committee this year are Trystan Smith, Chandler Thompson, Billie Siddoway and Tomu Johnson.

Continuing Legal Education is another area in which we made some substantial changes, beginning with a summer series of free CLE’s on practical topics many young lawyers confront, particularly when friends and relatives call seeking advice.  Hosted by the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, programs on family law and criminal law quickly filled to capacity.  Look for two more free basic skills level CLE’s next summer.  In addition, we will continue this year our popular lunch programs with judges on the Third District Court and our State appellate courts.  We’ll also continue to host CLE lunches on relevant, interesting and topical issues, like our most recent CLE on troubling trends in voter rights.  Chris Hogle chairs our CLE subcommittee, with excellent assistance from Judge Michele Christiansen, Mark Kitrell, Rita Cornish and Clem Landau.

One area where our committee made virtually no changes is our social programming.  I am convinced that no bar-related organization hosts better social functions than our own Salt Lake County Bar Association Socials subcommittee.  Our events have been at full capacity for many years.  While tremendously enjoyable, our events serve an important function – they provide perfect occasions for members of our local bar and bench to gather and connect in ways that advance the collegiality and professionalism for which our bar is known.  Our annual Alta Club reception for new lawyers was a huge success, and our upcoming holiday party at the Country Club will sell out again.  Be sure to circle December 7 for that event.  Jonathan Pappasideris continues his outstanding multi-year tenure as chair of our Socials subcommittee, ably supported by Bart Johnsen and Sam Meziani.

Look for information after the first of the year concerning our annual Art and the Law project, led by Jennifer Mastrorocco and Kristine Larsen.  Participation among local schools remains near an all-time high, and our Third District Court judges always demonstrate great enthusiasm for judging the entries (many of which are on display in the Matheson Courthouse).

Our Membership, Public Relations and Social Media Committee is assembling a Survey Monkey questionnaire designed to help us better understand whether there exists among our membership unmet needs or interests for which new membership benefits would be useful.  The Committee is also ensuring that our operations remain transparent.  A calendar of our events, publications like this Bar & Bench Newsletter, and other materials are posted on our website at www.slcba.net.  Lauren Shurman, Aida Neimarlija, and Laura Scott are constantly working on ways to improve our value proposition for members.

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to our officers.  Anneliese Booher is serving as our Vice President, Amy Sorenson is our Secretary, and Shane Hillman is our Treasurer.  Laura Scott remains on the committee as our Past-President.  These officers and all the members of our Executive Committee provide countless hours of service every year.  Our Salt Lake County Bar is fortunate to have such talented and dedicated lawyers working on our behalf.

Voting Rights CLE

The Salt Lake County Bar Association Presents:

VOTING RIGHTS ISSUES IN THIS ELECTION CYCLE

Panelists: Attorney J. Michael Bailey, Prof. Thad Hall, Attorney Marina Lowe, and Prof. Michael Teter

Lunch and 1hour CLE CREDIT (pending)

When:         Monday, October 29, 2012, at noon

Where:        Wasatch Retreat and Conference Center located within The Episcopal Church Center of Utah, 75 South 200 East, Salt Lake City (free parking in the Diocese Parking Lot)

Cost:           $25 for Salt Lake County Bar Members, and $30 for all others. Payment to Salt Lake County Bar Association in advance or at the door.

RSVP:        Please RSVP by e-mail, fax, or telephone by Wednesday, October 24, 2012, to:              Barbara Noble

                  (801) 799-5893 (telephone)

                  (801) 799-5700 (fax)

                  bknoble@hollandhart.com

                  222 S. Main, Suite 2200

2012 New Lawyers & Judges Reception

The SLCBA Cordially Invites You to Its

NEW LAWYERS & JUDGES RECEPTION

to Welcome New Admittees to the Bar!

Thursday, October 25, 2012 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Alta Club

100 East South Temple (Parking available northeast of the Alta Club)

No Cost to Attend

Drinks and Hors d’oeuvres Will Be Served

RSVP to nnelson@vancott.com

 

Justice Tongue

Dear Justice Tongue:

I was brought up short the other day when opposing counsel objected to all of my discovery because I had not first served initial disclosures. They also objected because my standard set of rogs and requests supposedly exceeded some new artificially low limit under the “new rules”.  “What new rules ?” I asked aloud, at which time I was informed by the receptionist that the discovery rules had been turned on their head.   I immediately suspected a meddlesome committee of “liberal elites” bent on having the government interfere with the courts.  Why can’t they leave us alone to duke it out as we always have?  Why fix something that isn’t broken?  What is the great Justice Tongue’s take on these new and unimproved pesky products of committee chaos? 

                                                                        Yours Truly,

                                                                                  DOZ

Dear DOZ:

            Oh my!  How exactly are you employing the term “new?”  Or let me be more pointed in my examination.  What percentage of your billable hours are logged during waking hours?  You say your receptionist brought you up to speed.   I suspect the janitor could have done so as well.

            Oh, what a burden has been placed upon you as a member of the bar to actually have to read and implement something new with the hope and ambition of expediting the judicial resolution of disputes.  Oh sure, you and your kindred have been endowed a legal monopoly in the right to represent the interest of others in court and the power to exact ever-escalating fees in endless senseless battles over information that rational minds would freely exchange.   What an intrusion on your solitude just because clients are completely dependent on your efforts (or lack thereof) to represent and efficiently promote their interests.

             Hmm, I just wonder if in your apparently few sentient moments you could grasp the larger concept that the practice of law is not just about you.   There is that pesky problem of the clients’ best interest and the fact that you may be doing as much harm to them as the corporate malefactors that drove them into your grasp in the first place.  Ask your receptionist if he or she could afford to protect his or her rights in a system that spends most of its time and energy dancing around the universe of possibilities, all the while emptying the client’s pockets long before the few and the well healed can taste the sweet relief of some measure of resolution.   With increasing impatience I watch unprepared and distracted “advocates” going through the motions (pun intended) with little evidence that they have any intent or ability to bring matters to trial.  It is as if they exist in an insular reality in which the process is the product, and the overweening reality is their status in the law firm’s hourly billing marathon.  

            Do not get me wrong, the revisions to the discovery rules are far from perfect.   But you need to hear the wake up call.  If the hallowed system of distributive justice is not serving the interests of real people with real problems (you know the people that vote), they won’t value it.   This just in:   people will not protect that which they do not  value.  In other words, they will allow your precious franchise to go bye-bye and the monied malefactors will have their way with this branch of government as well.

            I am guessing that by now you are completely lost.   Okay.   Take this meager offering to your receptionist (or janitor) and let them continue to “bring you up to speed”.           

                                                                         Fondly, Tongue

Judicial Profile — Justice Thomas R. Lee

The newest member of the Utah Supreme Court—Justice Thomas R. Lee—has been very active during the nearly two years since he was appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert.  He has been an active questioner during oral arguments, has authored twenty-nine opinions (according to Westlaw), has continued to teach at Brigham Young University’s law school, and still manages to find time to coach in his sons’ basketball leagues.  This high level of activity, however, has not transformed Justice Lee into a judicial activist.  To the contrary, he remains committed to his longstanding belief that the “role of the judge is to say what the law is and not what it should be.”

Justice Lee arrived at the Supreme Court with a wealth of appellate experience.  After graduating with high honors from the University of Chicago Law School in 1991, he clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, as well as for Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court.  During the course of a career split between private practice and Brigham Young University, Justice Lee argued cases before numerous Federal Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. 

Although much of his private practice and teaching centered on intellectual property, the case Justice Lee argued before the United States Supreme Court, Utah v. Evans, 536 U.S. 452 (2002), involved a constitutional challenge—based on the rarely litigated Census Clause—to the methodology used by the Census Bureau in conducting the 2000 Census (which, as you may recall, resulted in Utah’s loss of one congressional Representative to North Carolina). Justice Lee described his oral argument before the Supreme Court as both the most thrilling and the most intimidating experience of his professional career.  During argument, all of the Justices—with the exception of his former boss Justice Thomas—peppered Justice Lee with questions about the statistical methods used by the Census Bureau, and under what circumstances those methods of data extrapolation were permissible.  One line of questioning even revolved around what the Census Bureau could properly infer when pizza delivered to a particular house subsequently disappeared.        

Reviewing the Evans argument online highlighted two things for me about Justice Lee.  See Evans Oral Argument Transcript, available at http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_714. First, regardless of the area of law at issue, it is critical to appreciate the starting point of a particular right (for instance, whether it derives from the Census Clause, a statutory enactment, or the common law).  Second, active oral arguments—even those involving unanticipated hypotheticals about pizza delivery—are ultimately much more helpful to the judges (and invigorating to the advocates) than those limited to a bland regurgitation of the briefing.   

As to his experience on the Utah Supreme Court, Justice Lee praised the fabulous work environment and credited the other Justices for helping him acclimatize to the view from behind the bench.  He described the current court as a group who take their jobs seriously, but thankfully themselves “not so much.”  The resulting camaraderie has made it possible for the Justices to engage in meaningful debate about matters of great importance to Utah and to respond to the competing interpretations of the law presented in every case with agility.  In a nutshell, it is this “give and take” with both the other Justices and the attorneys appearing before the court (as well as the high level of activity that necessarily results from taking this approach) that Justice Lee has come to enjoy so much over the past few years since his appointment.

Judicial Profile — Judge Todd M. Shaughnessy

To newly appointed Third Judicial District Court Judge Todd M. Shaughnessy, the breadth of the legal profession is both its greatest reward and possibly, its saving grace.  Judge Shaughnessy has always aspired to the true generalist in his own career, embracing the full scope of intellectual challenges that the profession offers.  Now, as a trial court judge, Shaughnessy has the opportunity to fulfill those personal aspirations while simultaneously contributing to the enhancement of the legal profession’s general ability to meet those diverse societal needs.

During his seventeen years of private practice, at both Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy and Snell & Wilmer, Shaughnessy made every effort to build as broad a practice as civil litigation could offer, immersing himself in the details of any business, industry, or individual that would hire him, even at the cost of billable hours.  It wasn’t until he began his judicial career, in July 2011, however, that Judge Shaughnessy learned just how diverse the practice of law really was.  The panoply of challenges he faced, from criminal to domestic to probate to civil, were as rewarding as they were foreign and difficult.  Judge Shaughnessy has addressed his inexperience in those areas by leaning heavily on his colleagues on the bench, crediting his achievements thus far to their unlimited patience and willingness to help.

Judge Shaughnessy’s private career and early experiences as a judge have made him quite aware of the limitations of litigation and the obstacles that have prevented the legal profession from reaching the full scope of society’s needs for dispute resolution.  He is hopeful that the new “proportional discovery rules” will open the doors of the judiciary to a wider variety of trials, litigants, and jurors, by reducing the cost barriers to litigation and by protecting attorneys who try cases upon limited and imperfect information.  The increased level of participation, he believes, will vest a larger segment of society in the success of the system, and thereby elevate the profession, while creating new opportunities for lawyers willing to take cases to trial within the confines of the new discovery limitations, more like the trial attorneys of yesterday.

Judge Shaughnessy is similarly a man of many passions in his personal life, and he believes that the diverse personal interests of Utah attorneys play an important role in maintaining the close-knit, cordial bar that we are so lucky to have in Utah.  He advises his colleagues in the bar to cultivate those interests, enjoy their short time with their children, and experience the world class landscape in which we live, as he does on his frequent motorcycle trips around Utah and weekends at his family cabin in Torrey.  If the daily pressures of law practice start to take their toll, Judge Shaughnessy would advise the civil litigant to check their perspective at the criminal law and motion calendar, where lives are permanently changed on a daily basis.  It is those proceedings, and the decisions they require, that now keep the veteran civil litigator, and aspiring generalist, awake at night.