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August 9, 2003

NYS Bar Brochure Wins “JuDee” Pampleteering Citation

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:02 pm

Weakend Special:

Explaining that bar groups can now use both online and hard copy brochures to keep legal consumers ignorant of their rights and options, ethicalEsq spokesperson Jackie Cliente announced that the first ethicalEsq JuDee Pampleteering Citation has been awarded to the New York Bar Association, for its brochure You and Your Lawyer.

  • Named in honor of the famous biblical character, the Judas ESQariot Award Program was started in July 2003 (see “IL & MD lawyer groups win first “Judee” awards” (July 13, 2003), to recognize “exceptional efforts to promote the financial interests of lawyers while purporting to protect consumers of legal services” Affectionately called JuDees, the awards are granted, in various categories, to especially deserving lawyer groups.

You and Your Lawyer came to the attention of ethicalEsq last week when an NYSBA press release announced (Aug. 1, 2003) that the Association was “making available to consumers revised and updated legal information pamphlets” on various subjects, from its LegalEase series of pamphlets.  The release noted that “Six of the 14 titles in the series have been translated into Spanish in order to broaden the reach of this information to all New Yorkers.”  [Click here for the folleto Usted y Su Abogado.]

Launching the LegalEase update, NYSBA President A. Thomas Levin stated earnestly:

“It is important for citizens to understand how they are protected and affected by the law. In the interest of serving the public, NYSBA has developed this series of legal pamphlets to provide New Yorkers with a basic overview of the law and the legal system.”(emphasis added)

You and Your Lawyers, which is modestly described as merely giving information “on who needs a lawyer and when, legal fee basics, and tips on communicating successfully with your attorney,” easily meets the criteria of the JuDee review panel — with particularly notable efforts related to contingency fees and so-called “self-help” programs.

With this brochure, NYSBA boldly defies both consumer advocates (who say that personal injury clients should negotiate the percentage contingency fee charged or demand to pay an hourly fee, since taking one-third of the amount recovered is often excessive) and defenders of the contingency fee system (who insist that there is no “standard” contingency fee and that risk should indeed be taken into account when setting the fee).  The pamphlet explains (emphasis added):

The basis for a fee

. . . There are several other methods [besides hourly fees] used for computing legal fees, a combination of which may be used: . . .

3. In some cases, the result itself may determine the fee. This is called a contingency arrangement which is the norm in New York State in personal injury cases, and prohibited in criminal and most injury cases. The lawyer receives no fee unless money is recovered for the client. If money is recovered, then the lawyer is paid an agreed upon percentage of the recovery, which in New York State might be about 33%, depending upon the amount recovered.

Similarly, NYSBA refuses to join the self-help bandwagon by suggesting that kits, books or software might give consumers useful access to legal services.   Instead, You and Your Lawyer warns of dire consequences to be paid by any “fool” who attempts to solve legal problems without using a lawyer (emphasis admiringly added):

Why you should not seek to handle your own legal affairs

A number of do-it-yourself “kits” are offered for sale from time to time. Kits are available for getting a divorce, declaring bankruptcy, or forming a business. It’s not illegal for you to use these for your own affairs; however, you risk paying the consequences. Kits may appear to save you money, but a minor detail, one that you might overlook but one that a lawyer is trained to notice, could result in a loss far greater than what you “save” by trying to be your own lawyer. After all, there’s an old saying, even for lawyers, that “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

ethicalEsq‘s Editor beamed while awarding the JuDee Pampleteering Citation to NYSBA.  Wondering aloud whether he should renew his long-lapsed membership in the bar group, he exclaimed “With fiduciaries like these, who needs felons?“.

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