Tipping the Scales of Justice: The Role of the Nonprofit Sliding Scale Law Firm in the Delivery of Legal Services
20 NYU J. of Legs & Pub. Pol'y 375 (2017)
29 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 21, 2017
Most research on providing legal services for low-income clients has focused on (1) government-funded programs, (2) private donor-funded programs, and (3) pro bono programs. Despite the valuable services these programs provide, a well-documented justice gap persists. Other models for the delivery of legal services exist, but are not well known or understood. One such approach has existed for years without scholarly study: the nonprofit organization that only serves low-income clients and receives its funding primarily on the basis of sliding-scale fees paid by clients. Based upon the author’s personal experience starting a nonprofit Sliding Scale Law Firm (SSLF), and informed by interviews with attorneys working at SSLFs across the country, Part I of this article describes the structure of these nonprofit SSLFs. Part II addresses the role that the SSLF model fills in the overall system of legal service delivery: SSLFs reduce the justice gap by providing services to clients who cannot obtain free legal services, but cannot afford to hire an attorney at prevailing market rates.
Keywords: Civil legal Aid, Access to Justice, Low Bono, Pro Bono, LSC, Public Defender, 501(c)3, Legal Services Delivery, Nonprofit Sliding Scale Law Firm
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