Innovating Legal Solutions to Increase Access to Legal Services
Legal services are not affordable for many working Iowans. The gap in affordable legal services is well documented. According to a 2015 survey complete for the Iowa State Bar Association, "the median hourly rate charged by all [Iowa] attorneys in private practice is $199". In October of 2010, former US Attorney General Holder stated “Today... the gaps in legal services for the poor and middle class constitute not just a problem, but a crisis. And this crisis appears as difficult and intransigent as any now before us.” (DOJ Access to Justice Website).
Iowa Legal Aid and pro-bono programs such as the Volunteer Lawyers Project, provide free legal assistance those who are most desperate in need, but they simply cannot meet the demand for affordable civil legal services. CLI is dedicated to innovating solutions to help bridge the gap in affordable civil legal services. Below are some of the strategies we're using to increase access to justice for working Iowans.
Representation with Sliding-Scale Retainer
We understand that large retainers are not affordable for many people. To address this, we will will adjust our hourly rate based on your household income. If you have no income, then you may want to first consider applying for help from Iowa Legal Aid or other nonprofit service provider. You can calculate your own sliding-scale hourly rate HERE.
The retainer deposit (down-payment) that is required for us to begin working on your case will depend upon the nature of your case, whether you need self-help, limited-scope, or full representation. It will also depend on the specific facts of your case. No case is exactly the same. Because of this, we require a consultation before we will will give you a full retainer quote for your specific case. We charge $60-$100 for an initial consultation. During the consultation, an attorney will meet with you to discuss your case, give you legal advice and discuss your options for representation. You will receive a written quote for the required retainer deposit by applying your sliding-scale hourly rate. You can schedule a consultation by calling the office number at 515-412-4529.
Unbundled, Flat Fee, & Limited Scope
"Unbundled legal services" can be hourly or flat-fee arrangements where you only pay for help with a limited part of your case, based on what you want or can afford. Examples of unbundled legal services are: assistance with completion of immigration applications, assistance with self-help representation (see below), or representation for only a limited portion of a larger case. The choice is up to you.
The unfortunate reality is that every day people end up representing themselves in critical legal matters without any legal assistance whatsoever. According to a 2011 ISBA survey, 80% of Iowa Attorneys responding said they rarely or never offer limited representation agreements. CLI is helping to increase access to legal services through our use of unbundled and limited scope agreements.
Self-Help (Pro Se) Assistance
When people decide to represent themselves in legal matters instead of hiring an attorney, it is sometimes called Self-Help or "Pro Se". Representing yourself may be a good option in certain situations, however it can also potentially be a terrible and costly mistake. Every attorney has a story of a client who attempted to represent themselves in some legal matter, who later desperately needed legal help to straighten it out. As you can imagine, cleaning up a mess is not always cheap.
CLI offers a range of services for people considering to represent themselves: from assistance in drafting and reviewing forms, to limited scope representation in only a portion of your case. The Iowa Supreme Court has approved self-help forms for divorce, custody and guardianship matters, which hs opened up access to family law.
The key to representing yourself is to get accurate legal advice and guidance at the beginning, before you've made the decision to jump in with both feet. For a small fee you can meet with a licensed and experienced attorney for one-on-one answers to questions, assistance reviewing forms, and other legal assistance before you make the decision to represent yourself. You may even decide that you need more legal help than you thought and decide to hire us for limited assistance in your case, or for your entire case.