Keep the Doors Open for the Poor
May 20, 2007
Taking away contingent fees from the poor and working class is just one way to shut the courthouse doors to those asking to enforce certain rights. Historically contingent fee arrangements were to be used when a person could not afford to pay a lawyers hourly fee. The contingent fee arrangement has long been described as the poor man’s key to the courthouse. It still is for the poor and working person. Of course, the federal government can well afford to pay lawyers fees so one has to ask whether a contingent fee arrangement is ever proper for it. And the answer is probably no.
But does this ban say anything about whether a general policy against contingent fee arrangements should be widely adopted? And the answer is most certainly, “No.” State government is the federal government’s poor sister. State budgets are not in the same league and so a contingent fee is sometimes proper.
As for the working class – of which I’m still one, the contingent fee is still our key to the courthouse. And as such is a useful and legally binding contract.