Moderate Means: Helping People Find Justice

Lawyer meeting with clients

Charlie Shane is a Bainbridge Island-based attorney who works with clients in the Seattle area and in Kitsap, Mason, and Jefferson counties. For Charlie, the Moderate Means Program has been a great way to give back to his community and help clients who need it.

Shane says that many of his moderate means clients would not have been able to get a lawyer on their own, or would have had only limited representation. When he goes to court, he usually sees people who need but do not have representation. In some of his cases the opposing party can afford a lawyer, but his client would not have been able to without help from the Moderate Means Program. Shane says that “in family law, ugly situations can come up and the client needs someone to help; otherwise, that person would face injustice.” The problem can be even worse in other areas of law: a colleague who practices bankruptcy in Thurston County says that about 80 percent of parties are unrepresented. In those situations, says Shane, it’s “nice to help [people] find justice who would have been run over, and who wouldn’t know what to do.”

Shane has also found that the Moderate Means Program has been a good source of clients for his small firm. He had started his own firm less than a year before the Moderate Means Program’s inception and began working with the program soon after it started. After an intake call by a volunteer law student, Shane receives a referral and chooses whether to take the case. If he decides to take it, he conducts a free phone consultation with the client and is often retained by the client (with reduced fees) after the consultation.

Shane says he greatly enjoys working with moderate means clients, noting that his clients who have some “skin in the game” greatly appreciate his work. They are pleased with the rates he charges and understand that they may have to be realistic about results. “Most importantly,” he says, “they are grateful for the work I have done.”

For new lawyers considering whether to join the program, Shane says that “if you are hanging up your own shingle, it is the best way to go. It is really great starting out and in lean times.”

One thought on “Moderate Means: Helping People Find Justice

  1. Cheryl Mitchell

    I am an attorney in Spokane and I tried to help a woman receive help from the moderate means program. She was trying to gain custody of her grandchildren who had been left with her. She has a job and did not qualify for the pro bono program. She made “too little” money ($14/hour) to qualify for the moderate means program so she was forced to retain an attorney at his full legal rate. She had to take out a loan to pay him.

    I do not practice in the area of family law so I was not able to help her. There is something seriously wrong when a lady like this falls through the cracks of the legal system when she is trying to do the right thing. She asked for help from Child Protective Services and they refused to provide her with any assistance, even in filling out the paperwork.

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