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Sunday, May 22, 2011

LEGAL ECONOMICS

True or false: The NYC Public Defenders Office is a great place to learn your trade?

A: It's a trick question. Surprisingly NYC doesn't have a PDs office. The Big Apple has a patchwork indigent defense system comprised of a semi-private corporation- Legal Aid- and something called 18-B attorneys which is akin to our private court appointed attorneys.

The NY Times covers this system today. The title links to the article. Some surprising tidbits:

The Lawyer featured in the article earned $68,000.00 from his 18-B work, which constituted 98% of his income. He is a 50 year old attorney who learned his craft in the Prosecutor's Office.

How does an attorney run a practice on that amount of money anywhere, much less in one of the most expensive cities in the world?

NYC spent about 75 million dollars on 18-B attorneys last year. The City is now looking for a "contract system" to cut costs. You've heard the rumors here: One lawyer bids to handle 5,000 cases for a fixed cost and then apportions the work out to attorneys who used get cases from the court, for a reduced fee. The top attorney skims a healthy income for him/herself off the top, while everyone else can barely pay their bills.

Recall the scene of migrant farm workers in camps in dust bowl era California portrayed in John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath, and you sort of get the idea: You pay people just enough so they can't become economically independent, but also so they cannot afford to say no.

The more things change....

The simple fact is that the economic reality of law schools churning out attorneys has created a glut in the market. Most law students who are not in the top ten percent of their class at a top law school cannot secure a job upon graduation. They are reduced to the "contract system" where they receive per diem payment from firms for daily scut work. And they feel lucky to get that. In the last year we've spoken to dozens of law school grads who are working as waiters and cocktail waitresses while looking for work. Our service based economy swamps almost everything else.

Folks, there is a radical change coming to the economics of our chosen livelihood. Indeed, that change has already arrived (Regional Counsel anyone?).

Change is the price of survival.

Either you're in front of the wave on this one, or you drown. Just don't say we didn't warn you to either get some swimming lessons or get out of the ocean.

If you left Miami in 1970 and spent 15 years on an island and returned in 1985, the economics of the legal system would have looked roughly the same. We do not think you will recognize our current economic legal system in 2026.

Just a thought.

See You tomorrow, unless you took our advice from yesterday's post.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Court Broom: Here in Miami there was similar activity. One particular attorney would get appointments from one particular judge and that attorney would apportion them out to other attorneys. Nothing new.

Fake Fake Ted Mastos said...

Ummm, ( chomp, chomp, smack) your Honor, in light of the failure of the State to make certain that ( chomp, smack) the end of the world happened, I was unable to prepare. I think that a State continuance is in order. ( smack).

Anonymous said...

Whatchu got to say about the HEAT now Rumpy?

master builders said...

The business transaction based on legal framework of economics must be welcome from the authority.However,the profit must be a lot lower.Therefore,most of the company are always trying to get rid of this framework.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has a few more Judges announcing reignations this week. Anybody know who???????

Anonymous said...

"I cooked up some tater tots and then fried an egg and put it on top and then smothered that with ketchup. Then I ground some coffee and sat down and continued reading my book on Madoff and just enjoyed a quiet morning."

So we now know he is single, and lives alone. Plus has a horrible diet. Yikes do we really want to know who this blogger is...

Anonymous said...

You are right. Nothing new. The budget crises hits us all except senior attorneys in both the PDO and the SAO. They have the best part-time jobs around with full benefits and paid vacations. A senority system breeds deviant behavior.

But let's not look at our attorneys. They are sacred. Let's look elsewhere to cut costs.

I've seen private attorneys get continuance after continuance to pad their legal fees. I've seen judges appoint a less qualified attorney on appeal who is a friend, rather than a certified criminal law attorney. And I've been in the PDs office day after day with empty floors of senior attorneys. And I've been lied to by attorneys who promise to pay for a transcript and I was never paid.

Broward County PDO is not reducing the appeal page rate of court reporters. I can only imagine that the reason the Dade PDO has taken aim at court reporters is a personal reason.

Any attorney who thinks we are overpaid and that our job is easy does not take into account the fact that we work every night and every weekend. Any fool can make the money we make.

And please keep photocopying my transcripts in court because it's not like it is theft.

If all four of you in the Dade PDO have the time to conspire against court reporters, I'd say you case load isn't heavy enough.

Anonymous said...

Living on $68k a year is possible in a number of ways. Obviously if your spouse has a substantial income, it helps.

But at the Manhattan DA, the office is known for being full of "trust fund babies", because there is no way to fulfill the residency requirement and be able to live on that salary. So this attorney you speak of may never have been in it for the money.

Was that $68k gross, or net of all expenses? Not that it makes a big difference, just curious.

Anonymous said...

Been telling people for years to get an MBA, don't go to law school.

They don't listen. They all think they will either get that high paying job (lawyers are a rather conceited bunch) or they think the one wrongful death case will fall in their lap which will make it all worthwhile.

It's a crapshoot. And if I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn't. Not just because of the economics. The lifestyle just isn't worth it.

Kissimmee Kid said...

"And I've been lied to by attorneys who promise to pay for a transcript and I was never paid."

File a grievance with the Florida Bar. When a lawyer hires people to assist him, in the practice of law, he is ethically obligated to pay them.

The rule is limited to persons hired to assist in the law practice, not the guy who mows the lawn, but a lawyer who does not pay a court reporting invoice does not belong in the profession.

Anonymous said...

Continuance after continuance is not to "pad" legal fees. It's to try to collect them.
I'm not going to trial on a case I don't think I'm ever going to see the rest of my fee on.
I hate payment plans, but I'm worth my fees and there are clients who simply can't afford to pay all at once.

Anonymous said...

You know, I'm worth my fee too. I produce nearly perfect transcripts as compared to the untrans that are in other reporters' transcripts.

I'm still trying to collect $25,000from the court reporter JJ who went out of business with her XXX court reporting agency.

I have at least five State of Florida vouchers and PDO invoices with corresponding invoice numbers and my name on the invoices. And do you think I can get any lawyer to take this on? It's all worked up and ready for trial. I've paid one lawyer $7,000 and have been to see about five other lawyers who have said no.

I've been to the SAO (probably went to high school with her), I've been to both chief judges (Broward chief judge helped all the court reporters get paid after she flaked out), I've been to "Help me Howard" (he said the SAO should help). Can't get any of those lazy butts to barely even respond to a letter.

You know as court reporters, we take any kind of work from undistinguishable accents to highly technical testimony to medical and don't forget the QEEG.