New Utah Bar program aims to expand access to legal services

Published: Friday, June 21 2013 1:03 p.m. MDT

The Modest Means Lawyer Referral program will make legal assistance available for reduced rates to those whose incomes are up to three times above the federal poverty guidelines.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Bar has introduced a new program to expand access to legal services for Utahns with "modest means."

The Modest Means Lawyer Referral program will make legal assistance available for reduced rates to those whose incomes are up to three times above the federal poverty guidelines. For example, a family of four with an income up to $70,000 may qualify for discounted attorney fees of $50 to $75 an hour.

The program comes after the Pro Bono Commission was created last year to offer legal services to those who are unable to pay.

“Making the justice system accessible to all, without regard to economic status, is a top priority for the more than 8,000 active lawyers of the Utah State Bar," Bar President Lori Nelson said in a news release.

The referral program will allow clients to choose whether to hire a lawyer for full representation or in a more limited scope, depending on their specific needs. The American Bar Association recently encouraged its members to consider limiting the scope of their services to increase access to legal services, the release states.

The program is designed to help with the problems sometimes caused by those who attempt to represent themselves in court. Currently, almost 50 percent of those who appear for divorce proceedings do so without an attorney, leading judges to report that they "find consistent problems with self-represented parties expecting judges and court staff to provide legal advice, failing to understand rules of procedure and evidence, failing to bring necessary witnesses and evidence to court, and refusing to accept the court’s rulings.”

Those interested in taking advantage of the program can visit utahbar.org/lawyer-referral to see if they qualify for the discounted legal services.

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