Like most attorneys, Michael Addams wears many hats: principal partner at the Spokane law firm Addams & Leavitt, board member of CASA Partners and Teen Closet, Washington Air National guardsman, WSBA Low Bono Section member, husband and father. In addition, Michael and his firm have incorporated a significant number of moderate means clients into their practice.
WSBA member Emily C. Nelson spoke with Michael about his unique approach, which combines public service law and business management.
When did you start taking moderate means cases and how many have you taken on?
I started taking cases in January 2015, and have taken about 10 cases of varying complexity.
How did you hear about the Moderate Means Program and why did you decide to sign up for it?
I first heard about Moderate Means while in law school at Gonzaga. It piqued my interest because I intended to practice public service law. Later, when I started my own low bono practice, Catherine Brown at Gonzaga helped us incorporate moderate means clients into our practice.
How has your practice grown or changed as a result of taking on moderate means clients?
I think it has helped us build a reputation of taking cases based on more than their earning potential. Making a living is important, but so is fulfilling our duty as attorneys to take on underrepresented clients. Other firms realize that we’re focused on reaching the best, most efficient resolution for our clients — not on billing hours.
What impact have you seen your work have on clients who may not have otherwise had access to legal help?
Most clients have been very surprised they could afford legal help and were able to reach a resolution without it deteriorating into a battle. I’ve also seen how some clients have benefited from having an attorney during a particularly intractable case.
What surprised you when working with moderate means clients?
No two moderate means clients are alike and variety is good for your practice and skills as an attorney. Moreover, moderate means clients stimulate your firm’s business. It’s essentially the same idea behind a coupon: rather than miss out on a client entirely, the rate is reduced to a level sustainable for the firm and the client.
Why would you encourage other attorneys to sign up for the moderate means program?
We have a duty as attorneys to serve those in need. The expected level of pro bono/public service work is quite low, and moderate means cases help you get in more pro bono hours while simultaneously making a profit and serving underrepresented clients.
The WSBA Moderate Means Program is currently recruiting attorneys to accept free referrals for reduced-fee work in family, housing, and consumer law cases. If you are interested or have further questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Moderate Means Program and other WSBA public service programs are funded by charitable donations to the Washington State Bar Foundation. Learn more about the Foundation and contribute here.