D.C. Bar President Andrea Ferster will gather with thought leaders and other key stakeholders to discuss making affordable legal services available to individuals of modest means in the District of Columbia. The November 7 discussion will be professionally facilitated by Paul D. Meyer of Tecker International, LLC.
The purpose of this initiative is to initiate dialog within the D.C. Bar and the greater Washington legal community on how to address the unmet legal needs of individuals whose incomes are above the poverty line but who nevertheless are unable to afford the cost of traditional legal counsel.
"It is my sincere hope this group's discussions will lay the groundwork for continued discussions aimed at developing creative, cost-efficient, and collaborative partnerships within our legal community to address this access to justice problem in the District of Columbia," Ferster said. She first publicly made an announcement of this discussion during her inauguration speech at the Celebration of Leadership on June 18.
Providing affordable legal services to person of modest means is an unmet access to justice need in the District of Columbia. The District's legal services organizations provide representation to the most impoverished people living in the community.
Their clients meet low income guidelines, typically 200 percent above the poverty level, which translates to $30,000 for a family of four. It is estimated that only 10-20 percent of the legal needs of the community are being met despite the rich community of legal services providers and pro bono support across the District.
Addressing persons of modest means is outside of the mandate and scope of most legal service providers.There are currently very limited resources for persons of modest means.
Anecdotal information from the courts is that many of these individuals elect to proceed pro se, particularly in the Family Court, probate, and Landlord-Tenant matters. The number of pro se litigants in the D.C. court system results in significant delays in the administration of justice and is evidence of an access to justice problem affecting a large sector of D.C. residents.
Recognizing that there are no simple answers to this dilemma, Ferster decided to convene this day-long, invitation-only roundtable discussion about "Low Bono." After today's dialog, the Bar will publish a summary of the ideas and suggestions that were shared by those in attendance.