Our neighbors to the north (Washington) and south (California) are often a step or two ahead of us when it comes to legal information and legal service to the people. (We are ahead in other ways (and don’t fare too poorly on the free legal service front), so please don’t read this post as anything but Legal Research News – it’s not an arms race.)
1) In Washington State, their Supreme Court is “being blogged,” to be distinguished from blogging themselves. This may make for a more interesting blog, though not necessarily more useful – only time will tell:
2) In California, the county law library system is useful to all, due to the efforts of many in the legal community who recognize that law libraries have a role to play in the Access to Justice …
Another sign of tough times: legal aid for the middle class, Among the resources available to the newly cash-strapped are online services, self-help centers and lawyers who offer group rates, by Carol J. Williams, March 10, 2009 (from the Los Angeles Times):
“Richard Massey’s suburban Anaheim home was valued at $700,000 two years ago when the bills for his cancer surgery came due and he had to tap the equity to pay them.
The cosmetics company executive had lost his job and health insurance just before getting ill — the start of a run of bad luck that accelerated with the real estate meltdown and has left the 50-year-old and his disabled wife facing eviction from their foreclosed home.
Long comfortably ensconced in the proud community of the self-reliant, Massey was unaware that free or low-cost legal help is available for the mounting middle-class casualties of the recession.
Had he known about the online guidance, legal self-help centers or community lawyers offering their services at group rates, he might have avoided being scammed by a fraudulent foreclosure rescue business that took his last borrowed money.
As millions of Americans live through their own nightmare versions of “Trading Places,” they are being confronted with legal problems compounding their fallen fortunes. An estimated 60% of Americans find themselves in the gap between those poor enough to qualify for publicly funded Legal Aid and those wealthy enough to afford an uptown lawyer….
Fortunately for the newly downgraded, the access-to-justice movement has advanced in recent years from Skid Row to Main Street.
At storefront law offices like Santa Monica’s LegalGrind, a cafe-legal clearinghouse, those facing court dates to deal with divorce, custody matters, driving offenses and debt can find out for $45 how best to tackle their problems without plunking down a $5,000 retainer and $400 an hour for a lawyer.
Bar associations in California and a dozen other states, meanwhile, have whittled away at the ethics rules and industry mind-set that used to discourage attorneys from taking clients on a “limited scope” basis. This involves representing them on specific aspects without taking responsibility — and charging fees — for the client’s full range of legal problems.
In every county of California, court documents and tutorials for completing them are available online. If citizens prepare their paperwork properly, overwhelmed judges can keep their daily crush of cases flowing more smoothly.
Efforts to marry do-it-yourself legal software and free or low-cost guidebooks with just the right degree of paid counsel are being spearheaded nationwide by the American Bar Assn. and fitted to local needs by lawyers and professional groups stepping up to meet the exploding demand.” (link to full story)