Access To Justice: The Rural Lawyer Gap

Rural Lawyer Shortage Concerns Leaders of the Legal Profession

, Daily Report

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In Georgia over the past year, increasing attention has been paid to some simple math that doesn't add up. Most of the lawyers, like most of the dollars, live in Atlanta. Most of the people—particularly the poor—are spread out around an expansive state, many miles away from the keepers of the keys to justice.

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What's being said

  • George C. Creal, Jr.

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again. The question should not be where have all the lawyers gone, but who killed the solo/general practitioner. When I hung my shingle in Jonesboro Georgia in 1996 with a few hundred dollars (hardly rural but not part of the metro yet), it was much easier than today. First, a young lawyer could get on the indigent defense list and take contract public defenders cases. This served several purposes: it paid your rent and phone bill, gave you jail referrals and got you in the court room. It took about two weeks a month to be a contract public defender and you could do domestic, wills, personal injury and give away alot of free advice the rest of the month. In those days, you could just settle a PI case. These days you have to either litigate or negotiate with several government entities, hospitals, medicare, and health insurance companies. It is just too complicated for the average solo. The good old days are gone between the public defender system, ERISA, subrogation, Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement, runners, lawyer T.V. advertising, hospital liens, tort reform, public defender system and bar rules about fee splitting. The legal profession, much like the medical profession, has either been incorporated or specialized leaving little room anywhere in the state for the solo/general-practitioner-entrepreneurial lawyer. I decided to become a lawyer in the 1980‘s because it was the last of the white collar professions where you could be your own boss. These days it is just another blue collar profession where you have to find a job. I frequently say I don‘t know how young lawyers can hang a shingle these days. As the late great, Senator Richard Russell used to say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

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