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Bar News - July 17, 2009

Morning Mail: Open Letter to Legal Services Agencies, NH Bar Members

Bar members have received a veritable deluge of information about the needs of those served by your organizations, often in the form of glossy mailers to individual attorneys. Your work is also featured in the Bar News on numerous occasions, and it is surely a virtuous work. As noted in various reports, however, the established organizations cannot fully cover the needs of those who cannot afford an attorney. Partly in response to that situation, the court rules were changed to allow unbundled services, or limited representation. Community Legal Services Inc. (CLS) is a non-profit entity created in the fall of 2005 in anticipation of the limited representation opportunity; CLS seeks to bridge the gap between those qualifying for free legal services and those who can afford a private attorney.

We offer low-cost limited representation, with a session currently costing $50. We would like to work with NHLA, LARC, and the NH Bar by accepting referrals of people needing legal services who do not qualify for the services of these established programs. CLS is not grant-funded and has not received state or federal funding; we rely solely on low user fees and occasional contributions. It therefore is not a threat to any organization’s funding stream.

One creative method used by CLS is community building through the use of community service. After the initial session, a returning legal consumer can reduce the session fee for her next session by doing an hour of community service. This is not something that usually benefits CLS directly, but builds a sense of community and personal worth for consumers choosing this option.

CLS has developed a streamlined and cost effective approach to meeting legal needs, and still manages to pay participating attorneys a small fee the same day that they serve the client. Our goal for 2009 is to have participating attorneys and/or CLS clinics in every county in New Hampshire. We urge bar members to refer the folks whom they cannot afford to serve, and who do not qualify for free legal assistance, to CLS.

Attorneys, if you’d like to participate, and earn a small fee while helping, give CLS a try. Check out our website at, or call 473-2002, toll free at 1-888-696-3393. While it may be best for every client to have retained counsel, that is not the reality. As the 2004 "Challenge to Justice" report concluded "limited representation is better than no representation at all." CLS helps fill New Hampshire’s gap in legal services.

Ruth Hall
Community Legal Services Inc.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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