Contributed by Catherine Brown and Clay Wilson
Five years ago this April, WSBA launched the Moderate Means Program (MMP), an initiative to help moderate-income individuals and families in Washington connect with lawyers who would offer affordable legal services. The impact on clients, law students and attorneys is overwhelmingly positive, and over the next year we will share stories of the accomplishments this program has made in the legal community.
Lawyers and law students are getting things done. Together with more than 600 participating attorneys and 300 law student volunteers, the WSBA Moderate Means Program referred nearly 2,800 family, housing, and consumer law cases during its first five years. We’ve learned and grown from our experience serving these moderate-income clients.
A participating attorney said of her MMP client, “The Moderate Means Program provides such a valuable service to so many people! [The client] is a single mother and voiced her sincere appreciation of the reduced fee structure the program is able to offer. Thank you so much for your kind referral of this dynamic, intelligent young woman. I am extremely pleased to be part of the MMP.”
- Lawyers and law students are getting things done. Together with more than 600 participating attorneys and 300 law student volunteers, the WSBA Moderate Means Program referred nearly 2,800 family, housing, and consumer law cases during its first five years. We’ve learned and grown from our experience serving these moderate-income clients.A participating attorney said of her MMP client, “The Moderate Means Program provides such a valuable service to so many people! [The client] is a single mother and voiced her sincere appreciation of the reduced fee structure the program is able to offer. Thank you so much for your kind referral of this dynamic, intelligent young woman. I am extremely pleased to be part of the MMP.”
- Unique partnerships and innovation encouraged. Although there are countless programs serving middle-income households across the country and even more attorneys committed to a “low bono” law practice, the WSBA Moderate Means Program is a one-of-a-kind innovation that combines a state bar association and its private attorney members with law schools and law students to provide affordable legal service for moderate income individuals and families.
- Benefits and rewards for participating attorneys. In additional to receiving free referrals from the WSBA Moderate Means Program, participating attorneys have access to hours of free MCLE-accredited online training modules, free mentorship, and a members-only list serve community. Plus, participating attorneys are paying it forward in their own communities by making affordable legal help available for moderate income households.As one participating attorney said, “The Moderate Means Program is a good opportunity for attorneys to get involved in different areas of the law and to gain experience. It’s an easy way to get referrals and a good way to give back to the community. It’s great that the MMP exists to help the folks in this gap. We should expand the MMP!”
- It’s about access to justice. Designed to connect those in moderate-income households with affordable legal help, the WSBA Moderate Means Program evolved from a pilot project launched by the Spokane County Bar Association Young Lawyer Division. Members of the Spokane YLD offered reduced-fee assistance for those in the Spokane community who earned too much to qualify for free legal help yet couldn’t afford full-fee legal representation. As counties across the state replicated the success of this reduced-fee referral model, the WSBA signaled its support for a culture of service through partnership between Washington state lawyers and the three law schools in Washington to create the WSBA Moderate Means Program.In 2012, Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen said, “Programs like Moderate Means play a crucial role in our legal system. With so many people unable to afford legal assistance, programs like this ensure that our judge have the information they need to make fair and just decisions. The caring lawyers who participate in Moderate Means help to give meaning to the promise of justice provided in our constitution.”Today, the WSBA MMP continues to connect scores of moderate-income households in Washington with private attorneys who offer affordable legal help.
- You’re invited to help us celebrate the WSBA Moderate Means Program community. Come celebrate with us! In honor of the WSBA MMP’s fifth birthday, we invite all current and former MMP attorneys and law student volunteers to help celebrate our MMP success. Join us in Seattle on April 19 at Seattle University School of Law’s Sullivan Hall, or in Spokane on April 21 at the Gonzaga University School of Law for food, drink, and celebration! Please contact the WSBA’s Public Service Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org for celebration details.
Join the WSBA Moderate Means Program community today. The WSBA Moderate Means Program welcomes participating attorneys in every county throughout Washington. To sign up, visit myWSBA.org and tell us how you prefer to participate, what kind of case referrals you’d like, and from which parts of Washington you’d like referrals. The WSBA provides MMP participating attorneys with free MCLE-accredited training, access to mentors, and a recommended sliding fee scale.