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Lawyers Being Rendered Obsolete?

Though $1,000/hour billing rates aren't scaring off large firm clients, the high cost of lawyers' fees, particularly in recessionary economic times, is a major factor driving the growth of pro se representation, reports USA Today.  Though many individuals handled legal matters without lawyers, particularly in small claims court, what's really changed, notes the article, is the increase in family law and domestic cases where lawyers aren't involved.  For example, in San Diego, the number of unrepresented parties in family court cases went up 70 percent in 2004 from 54 percent in the early 1990s.  And a 2004 study by the New Hampshire Supreme Court task force said 85 percent of civil cases in district court and 48 percent in superior court were tried without lawyers.

Courts have grown more responsive to the needs of self-help litigants.  Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have set up self-help centers to assist pro se's with forms.  Many courts also offer training to judges on dealing with unrepresented litigants. 

Cost isn't the sole reason that people choose to proceed without lawyers.  A study by the National, a Canadian Bar Association magazine, also found that the Internet has made it easier for people to research legal matters on their own. 

What do you make of the pro se  trend?  Are these unrepresented litigants clients who could never have afforded lawyers anyway?  Are they better off handling these matters completely on their own, or would they be better off with low-cost services like DivorceDeli.com, which I blogged about last week?  Or perhaps, will certain types of legal services eventually be rendered obsolete?  I welcome your comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 15, 2008 at 05:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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