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.