The University of Massachusetts School of Law has launched what it is calling an incubator designed to help new lawyers start their careers while serving modest-income clients who might not otherwise afford a lawyer.

Justice Bridge is described as a legal access center and law practice incubator that will help enable new lawyers to deliver high-quality, affordable legal services to clients of modest means.

JusticeBridge“The purpose of Justice Bridge is to match the 85 percent of litigants appearing in court every day without lawyers with the recent law school graduates who don’t have clients,” said program founder Deborah Ramirez, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

According to the program brochure, is intended to address two core challenges confronting the American justice system:

  • Shrinking employment opportunities for recent graduates under existing law firm structures.
  • The legal system’s growing inability to serve consumers of modest means who cannot afford high hourly rates but nonetheless make too much money to qualify for pro bono legal assistance.

To help address those dual challenges, Justice Bridge will provide new lawyers with resources, technology tools, training and mentorship to enable them to provide quality legal services. Lawyers will offer services in areas such as family law, housing, probate, employment, consumer law and immigration.

Legal fees will be set on a sliding scale, averaging $50 an hour and not exceeding $100 an hour, the program’s executive director, Leonard F. Zandrow, told the Boston Business Journal. Attorneys who work in the incubator are expected to earn about $50,000 a year.

Lawyers must apply to participate in the program. As part of the application, they will be asked to include a business plan outlining their legal practice goals. They will be expected to continue to develop and refine their plans as they participate in the program. After two years, they will go off on their own.

For now, the program has launched with nine recent graduates working on a six-month pilot basis. After the pilot concludes, attorneys in the program will pay a monthly membership fee of $500, for which they will get a furnished office in either downtown Boston or New Bedford, plus access to referrals, mentors and other resources. They will also be required to incorporate as a PC and purchase their own malpractice insurance.

  • Anna

    Awesome!! Thanks for Sharing! Sharing=Caring!!

  • This seems like a great idea! I really hope this starts off and does really well! I would like to see every state have one of these programs, because sometimes the state assigned attorneys, aren’t pushing to work the case how it should be worked.

    Keep these great blogs coming, I love hearing about great information and law start-ups like these!

  • JNagarya

    It appears that an underlying assumption is that those who are eligible for “pro bono services” are receiving the help they need. That is not the reality. Perhaps some of those will be helped by this effort.

  • JNagarya

    After further direct experience, I can state as a matter of fact that this “incubator” also shuts out the poor who are elgible for the _mythic_ “pro bono” “services” — which are refused them for no known “reason” that can withstand critical scrutiny. It is exclusivlely a “jobs program” for lawyers, the clients being nothing more than stepping-stone means — so long as they can pay money — to the intended end: lawyers focusing exclusively on making money by affirming a status quo that is intolerable — unlivable — for the poor.

    Justice for those with money. All else can suffer the “justice” of “unlawyerdly” poverty, which is their proper place for them to be kept.

    “UMass” Law School says the University is to serve the “public”; it even uses the words “social justice”. But even though lawyers agree that a person without a lawyer has no rights, they do nothing but protect that reality from challenge. It’s all and only about money.

    What is UMass doing for the poor who can’t get _any_ legal services, regardless the merits of their cases? Nothing.