At Palace Law we regularly contribute to legal publications. Here are some of the published articles written by Patrick Palace and staff. We are passionate about the exchange of ideas and constantly strive to further our profession.
Articles and Legal Professional Resources
Palace Law's Jordan Couch wrote an article featured on Sound Immigration's website: https://www.soundimmigration.com/tacoma/ about right's for injured workers, even if they are undocumented immigrants.
Think that being a litigator means you have to be a stressed-out, ulcer-ridden, hard-ass shark? Think again. You can certainly follow that stereotype, or you can have success as a litigator while still keeping it Zen.
The Lawyerist interviewed Patrick Palace about how he manages work and life.
Patrick Palace was featured in the ABA Journal from his talk at the ABA Tech Show.
Check it out: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/take_time_away_from_legal_work_to_learn_tech_and_stop_wasting_time
Patrick Palace talks about work life balance, doing what you love, and mindfulness.
Take a listen! http://guyswithmics.libsyn.com/20-more-than-a-lawyer
He discusses how he got started in workers comp and what he's doing to make our clients experience as seamless as possible.
Click here to read the Gonzaga Law Review by Jordan Counch, recently published online.
Hear more from Patrick about LLLT's and the future of the legal profession live from The Clio Conference 2015.
Publication Information NW Lawyer July/Aug 2015
Innovation coupled with exponential growth in technology is fueling the race to provide the best, fastest, and easiest legal services to the masses of consumers who need legal services. What path should we as a profession take to hold a market in the era of free access to the law ?
Publication Information NW Lawyer April/ May 2015
Americans make do without any legal services because they cannot afford a lawyer and lawyers won’t take their cases or can’t afford to offer them legal services. If anything, the market is ripe with (lost) opportunity.
Publication Information: NW Lawyer June 2014
There are many reasonable possibilities for not taking a case. But to the person who is denied services and others who see lawyers denying access to those in need, it might look like lawyer self-dealing and a breach of our promise to serve the public. It wouldn't be the first time lawyers were misunderstood
Publication NW Lawyer April/May 2014
In 2011, the Seattle Seahawks began their journey to becoming Super Bowl Champions when they hired Dr. Michael Gervais to lead team meditation sessions...
Publication NW Lawyer March 2014
As president of the WSBA, I have a full view of the the Bar's size and complexity, and its many moving parts. Most people don't realize that our bar is over 36,000 members strong
Publication NW Lawyer February 2014
After passing the Bar exam, a mentor with a stellar reputation gave me this business advice...
Publication NW Lawyer December/January 2014
The old economy is not coming back; neither is yesterday. A wise man once advised...
Publication NW Sidebar December 2013
In honor of Ret. Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers, we thought it important to open a space to recognize a man that dedicated his life to bettering the lives of those around him...
Publication NW Lawyer November 2013
Patrick Palace writes about the changing profession of law and what lawyers need to do to be part of that change...
At the Washington State Bar Association Annual Dinner on September 20, 2012, Patrick Palace was sworn in as the President Elect of the WSBA by the Chief Justice of the Washington Supreme Court, Barbara Madsen. Among the audience was Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst, seen in the bottom right, and was clearly pleased with his appointment.
Four Steps to living the Havana Life
Publication Washington State BarNews January 2012
For me it's July, July 8th. For many of you reading this it's probably August. Such is the gap between writing an article and having it published in hard copy.
Lots will happen between where I am today and where you are today. Bridging the time warp will be the presentation of the WSBA budget to the Board of Governors. You see, July is the time that the Treasurer and the Chief Financial Officer put together our $20 million budget to be presented to the Board of Governors for review and eventual adoption. This means it is a busy time for the Budget and Audit Committee, for those in finance and administration at the WSBA, and for the Governors.
The good news is I have good news. We have been working diligently not to raise WSBA license fees. I know that makes you all happy. It makes me happy. But here is the question that we have been asking ourselves: How do you keep license fees flat when the cost of doing business is increasing? The answer is that you must keep your pencil sharp; hire the best and the brightest accounting and finance staff; and perform a system-wide analysis of WSBA activities, functions, spending, and revenue. We have done this. It is July. Our budget is almost ready.
At the risk of tossing about numbers and statistics and the kind of information that makes most people's eyes roll into the back of their head, I would like to share with you some highlights to give you a sense of why license fees aren't going up despite significant increase in costs to the WSBA to maintain its staff and all of our necessary programs.
Let me start with staffing. As employers, how many of us like to walk up to capable hard-working staff and say "You're fired"? OK, Donald Trump might, right? We don't have any slackers at the WSBA and nobody likes firing hard-working good people there either. Therefore, we had to be creative and find ways to be more efficient. We tightened our belts. "Lean and mean," some would say, except we are not mean to our staff. We (and I mean the WSBA in the royal "we") have had a lot of changes in staff. By eliminating positions when vacancies occurred, increasing and decreasing part-time staff where needed, and putting new resources where our priorities lie, we reduced our full-time employees from 146 to 143.5.
Please understand that this description is a gross simplification of the long and difficult process that we went through. But, I understand that from your perspective the question is, "so what does it mean to me?" What it means to you is that we created a net cost savings of nearly $140,000 from our budget. Along these same lines, staff retirement benefits will reduced in the budget. The savings are expected to be nearly $100,000. Unfortunately, as many of you know, these saving are lost in part by the never-ending and skyrocketing increases in medical benefits. We have budgeted an increase of 15% for medical benefits to staff. This should track closely with the anticipated increases in medical benefits in 2012 that all of us are facing.
The Budget and Audit Committee has also proposed a decrease in the number of programs the WSBA currently supports. The Board of Governors will have to decide ultimately whether to adopt these recommendations.
The combination of staff changes and decreased programming may decrease our budget as much as $175,000.
While I am on this roll, let me also provide a little additional good news. You may recall that this year the Board of Governors decided to significantly change our bar exam. This will also result in an expected cost savings in the future as a result of these modifications. But additionally, simply by changing the bar examination site from Bellevue to Tacoma, we have decreased the budget $28,500. We have also decreased the cost of running our committees by 5.7%.
There are also places where we are finding decreasing amounts of revenue coming into the WSBA. As a result, we have done our best to make changes to prepare for those expected decreases in revenue that trend into the future. For example, we are anticipating a $15,000 reduction in the bar exam fees. This is related to an expected ongoing decrease in applicants. We are also seeing a similar reduction in law clerks fees and LPO license fees. While these reductions are not significant, it is interesting to note this trend.
So what is left to consider? How about future WSBA staff wage increases. Currently, across the board in government agencies, non-profits, and large corporate entities, employees are receiving increases in their wages, be it cost-of-living adjustments, raises to remain competitive, or merit-based increases. Some government agencies are increasing wages by 1.5%; some corporations are increasing wages by more than 3%. We have studied the statistics in Washington State, and the Board of Governors will be voting on the appropriate amount of increase for our WSBA staff in the near future. You may be interested to know that our survey data came from a variety of industries, including technology, banking, government/education, healthcare, nonprofit services, law firms, retail, and manufacturing, which show that the actual median salary budget increases in 2010 were between 2.3% and 3%. Median salary budget increases for 2011 are projected to be between 2.8% and 3.2%. While it may not always feel like it from where we sit behind our desks as lawyers, statistically our economy does continue to reflect growth in Washington State, particularly in the highly competitive Seattle market.
Budget and Audit has considered and debated all these facts and is recommending a modest increase of 2% for the merit pool at the Bar. The Board of Governors will have the final say.
With regard to the current year, I am also happy to tell you that our budget is right on track. In these sometimes challenging economic times, we have budgeted very closely to reflect our best estimates for actual expenses and actual revenues. I am proud of our incredible staff and hard-working Budget and Audit Committee. Like all budgets, it takes a certain skill to gaze into the crystal ball and see the way the future will actually appear. So far, we have been right on with our projections.
The bottom line for you is that your license fees are not increasing for now. As the cost of doing business continues to increase, at some point we will have to raise license fees. We can find only so many efficiencies, eliminate so many staff positions, and cancel or modify so many programs before we finally have to increase license fees. This will not occur in the immediate future, but it will happen. But even as we finalize the budget for 2012, we have done so with a strong emphasis on 2013, 2014, and beyond. No budget can be viewed in isolation, and indeed it is simply a dot on a trend line into the future. As we began this year, that trend line caused all of us to roll up our sleeves, sharpen our pencils, and think critically about the WSBA's entire structure of programming and staffing. As a result, we are putting in place a new vision of the organization of our Bar and its programs. No longer will the WSBA be what some critics have identified as "an inch deep and a mile wide." You are seeing the birth of a newly focused WSBA with a clear view of our programming, our mission, and the future.
So numbers are numbers, and budgets are budgets, and for those of you who are still reading, thank you. Those of you with inquiring financial minds may always email me or join us in any of our regular meetings (including the Board of Governors meetings) to voice your thoughts, creative solutions, and new ideas. This is your Bar.
By the time you read this article, we should be close to finalizing our budget and heading down the home stretch to another financially stabile year at the WSBA, even during these challenging economic times. Thank you for participating in your Bar, even if it's simply reading this article. Please visit me online at the new WSBA website where there is additional information and a place to email me. As always, I look forward from hearing from you.
Yours in Service,
Patrick A. Palace
Governor, Sixth District
In my practice, I handle hundreds of Workers' Compensation cases. Over the last 20 years I have handled thousands of cases. I imagine many of you can say the same thing about the area of law in which you practice. The question is, "how many cases are too many cases"? Issues regarding the competency of attorneys to handle their case loads have been historically handled on a case-by-case basis by the State Bar when Bar complaints are filed or by courts in criminal appeals that allege ineffective assistance of counsel. There has never been a rule made based on area of practice regarding the number of cases a lawyer can handle. However, guidelines do currently exist.
It may be worth noting at this juncture, that as the economy has changed and the business of lawyering has progressed, it is not uncommon for firms to handle increasing numbers of cases. Indeed, this trend has been most notable in firms that handle immigration law, bankruptcy, and public defense work. With this trend of increasing caseloads comes the risk of a breach of ethical obligations by failing to adequately represent clients.
For example, attorney Thomas J. Earl ran a high-volume criminal defense practice before he was disbarred. He was disbarred in 2004 based on his conduct involving charging fees while representing clients as court appointed criminal defense counsel, failing to explain the choice between appointed counsel and retained counsel, charging unreasonable fees and voluntarily maintaining an excessive caseload while one of the lawyers under contract to provide indigent criminal defense in Grant County. Mr. Earl's conduct violated RPCs 1.3, requiring lawyers to diligently represent their clients; 1.4(b), requiring lawyers to explain client matters to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make an informed decision regarding the representation and other RPCs.
In 2010, the Washington Supreme Court identified systemic problems in the handling of criminal defense cases for the indigent. In State v. A.N.J., 168 Wash. 2d 91, 112, 225 P.3d 956 (2010), the defendant alleged that the Grant County public defender contract in place at the time created an incentive for attorneys not to investigate their clients' cases or hire experts. The Supreme Court decision concluded "We agree." The Court reasoned that "entering such contracts is now a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. RPC 1.8(m). The system effectively paid a bounty for every guilty plea delivered by assigned defense counsel to the county prosecutor. This was a dysfunctional system. ...[W]e hold that if a public defender contract requires the defender to pay investigative, expert, and conflict counsel fees out of the defender's fee, the contract may be considered as evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel. We further hold that depending on the nature of the charge and the issues presented, effective assistance of counsel may require the assistance of expert witnesses to test and evaluate the evidence against a defendant." State v. A.N.J., 168 Wash. 2d 91, 112, 225 P.3d 956, 966-67 (2010).
The question that is currently before the Board of Governors is whether there should be limits on the number of misdemeanor and felony cases that a public defender can handle.
The Council on Public Defense has put forth proposed standards for indigent defense services in connection with the Supreme Court's recent amendments of CrR 3.1, CrRLJ 3.1, and JuCR 9.2. The Council on Public Defense is composed of stakeholders, including representatives from the courts at all levels, three representatives from the Washington Defender Association, three representatives from WAPA (Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys), representatives from the law schools, local government, the Access to Justice Board, and two citizens.
As part of these standards, the Council on Public Defense has recommended that the Board of Governors approve proposed standards that would place specific limits on the number of felony and misdemeanor cases that could be handled by a public defender. Specifically, the standards include a ceiling of 300 - 400 misdemeanor cases and a ceiling of 150 felony cases per year per public defender.
The concept of limiting the number of cases for a public defender is not new. Indeed, in September 2007, the WSBA approved similar recommendations as guidelines. However, such guidelines were not enforceable by way of Court Rule. This new recommendation would, in fact, be placed into a criminal rule and thus be enforceable, if adopted by the Supreme Court.
On the other side of this issue, the Board of Governors heard from two prosecutors and a representative from the Association of Municipal Attorneys who disagreed with the recommendation by the Council on Public Defense. They point out that a "one size fits all" approach is not appropriate and is arbitrary because it does not account for the experience of counsel, does not recognize the varying complexity of cases, and would be more expensive for the prosecutors' offices to deal with criminal defense counsel with the decreased case loads.
I also suspect that municipalities believe that if case limitations are imposed, the cost of criminal defense for the indigent may be more expensive for them. For prosecutors this may also mean that there may be less money for them, because in these times of limited budgets, if more money is paid to the defense, then it may come at the expense of decreasing budgetary allocations to the prosecutors.
Since the Board of Governors meeting in March, I have received a number of phone calls, emails and letters about this issue. We will discuss the issue at our next Board of Governors meeting April 29 and potentially again at our meeting June 3. If this issue strikes a chord with you and you wish to provide me your input, I would encourage you to provide me your point of view on this very interesting issue.
Additional News Around The Bar
I am happy to report that our Moderate Means Program is gaining momentum around the State. As many of you know, the Modern Means Program is a partnership between WSBA and Washington's three law schools, and will launch later this spring. The program provides reduced-fee lawyer referral services to people of moderate means: Washingtonians whose income is within 200% - 400% of the federal poverty level. This is in contrast to pro bono services that are provided to those whose income is below 200% of the poverty level. The program will start with involvement from specially trained students at Seattle University, followed by Gonzaga University, and the University of Washington. The creation of the Moderate Means Program is an answer to the increasing need for legal services by those who cannot afford them in this economy. This program also provides clients to lawyers who may charge reduced fees for services.
It also should be noted that in January the Board of Governors voted to adopt a new Bar examination that is likely to begin by Summer 2013. The Board of Governors voted to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in place of the current Washington State Essay Exam. The Governors also adopted the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The Board of Governors voted to continue to test Washington state-specific law in areas where Washington state law is significantly different from other jurisdictions, and Indian law, by means of an online learning component and multiple-choice test.
While this adoption of the UBE may result in decreased costs, such was not the focus for its adoption. While each Governor has his or her own reasons for voting, some of the issues discussed included that adopting the UBE would allow for increased portability, would maintain minimum competencies to practice law, and would limit disparate treatment among minorities taking the Bar.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent you at the WSBA Board of Governors' table and encourage you to send me your thoughts.
Yours in Service,
Patrick A. Palace
Governor, Sixth District
Most lawyers have an opinion if asked, about how much the WSBA should be charging for licensing fees. Some members, when asked, have opinions how the WSBA may save money by cutting programs. Others have opinions about expanding existing programs or creating new programs they think are needed. However, rarely do I hear anyone discussing the Bar's budget using real dollars. Indeed it has only been since my foray into the inner workings of the Bar as a Governor and now as your Treasurer, that I have come to better understand and appreciate the way the WSBA manages our money, the actual amounts of money we collect, the amounts we spend, and the reasons for the expenditures.
For example, over the last couple of years all companies, including large nonprofit organizations such as the WSBA, have faced huge increases in costs caused by our changing economy. Because we are a program-driven organization, employee costs make up nearly 70% of our budget. Although the economy is in recession, the future cost of employee salaries is a concern we must address, because salaries will not remain stagnant for long and we must remain competitive in the market to recruit and retain good employees. Also, our Bar is part of the state retirement system (PERS) and participates in medical benefits administered by the state, so we are subject to the rates set by the state. Over the past few years, the state has underfunded the state pension system, and must now find ways to adequately fund it. Therefore, like all state entities, we will see dramatic increases in the employer contribution rates for our employees, with costs nearly doubling in three years. Because rates are based on our salary pool, the fiscal impact is significant.
Medical costs are rising as well, although we are fortunate to be part of the state system that is able to control costs better than the private insurance market. Other employment taxes such as unemployment and workers' compensation continue to rise, although these are a small part of our budget. The cost of maintaining 150 employees of the State Bar has raised concerns about our ability to continue all our WSBA programs.
So, should we raise licensing fees, cut programs, redesign the WSBA or all the above?
We have taken a careful look at each of these approaches, but concluded that it is important that we look beyond the numbers and focus on the work of our Bar as a first step. Trimming the budget is an effective process only when programming priorities are established and defined. We first need to know where the WSBA' future lies and what the needs of our members are.
For these reasons, the WSBA is working to redefine itself. There have been high-level and widespread discussions focused on WSBA's future, mission and direction. As your Governor and Treasurer, I am working with the Budget and Audit Committee, staff and your Governors to formulate policy guidelines regarding what the functions of the Bar should be. In short, our goal is developing toward "reducing the footprint" of the Bar so that our Bar is not "a mile wide and an inch deep," as some have suggested. Today we have begun to focus on the needs of our profession and the clear role that the Bar should play and must play in ensuring we are composed of competent, qualified legal professionals and that the WSBA meaningfully supports our members.
As part of this global revaluation, the Budget and Audit Committee and the Governors are actively evaluating each and every program, even programs that may be revenue producers, to ensure that the Bar remains efficient and disciplined in its mission. This review will give the WSBA an increased sense of direction and purpose, while continuing to promote and grow the culture of service that exists within our Bar today.
Part and parcel of this redefining of the purpose of the Bar is trimming programs and streamlining the budget. Because we are a mandatory Bar, I believe we must scrutinize the budget and ensure that we spend each member's money in a manner that is prudent and consistent with our mission. Happily, we are well on the way to accomplishing these goals.
Ironically, looking at the budget in isolation today, there is no obvious reason for the Bar to take significant steps to pare down programs or expenditures. We had a healthy net income in 2010, and our 2011 budget is sound. The WSBA is solvent and healthy, and recently received another clean audit from Clark Nuber (rare in the industry but standard for WSBA). Indeed, I am happy to report that from 2009 to 2010, the Bar's total net assets have increased by nearly $1.1 million. Because we are a mandatory Bar, overall revenues have increased; at the same time, we tried to hold the line on expenses. However, regardless of how fiscally sound the WSBA is today, future projections about revenues and expenditures do not look great - in other words, expenditures will be rising faster than revenues and at some point our reserves will need to be used to cover deficits. The fiscally prudent thing to do is get ahead of the curve and address the future deficits now while we are in a good position to do so.
Finally, let me address licensing fees briefly. The Board of Governors has voted to maintain license fees at their current levels in 2011 and in 2012, despite the fact that costs are dramatically rising and Bar programming has expanded to meet the needs of our members. There may be a time in the future that licensing fees must increase to keep up with the increasing costs of doing business, but it is my goal as Treasurer and the goal of the Governors to find and exhaust every other potential means first.
In this spirit, it is my goal to continue to find ways to cut costs, to be more efficient, to focus WSBA functions and to grow our culture of service among members. We are moving in the right direction even through these tough economic times. In 2011, our Bar will become even more focused and our footprint may shrink. We can all be proud of our Bar and its performance in 2010. With the leadership of President Steve Toole, our Executive Director Paula Littlewood, and outstanding staff , I anticipate 2011 will be remembered as a defining year of growth and redirection.
Yours in Service,
Patrick A. Palace
Governor, Sixth District
You elected me as your Governor to represent the 6th District, and I began attending meetings in July 2008. "Three whole years," I thought. It has passed in the blink of an eye. Your former Governor and past President Sal Mungia warned me that time would pass quickly and indeed it has. There is one more Board of Governors' meeting before I retire as your Governor and as the Treasurer for the WSBA. I have to tell you that this is a great job. I am not handling the idea of being "done" very well.
But as I sunset for now, you will have a new Governor. You elected Vern Harkins as your Governor-elect. Vern is well known in Pierce County and throughout our district. It was a tough election, with multiple people running for the position this year. Vern was declared the winner after two rounds of voting. I have had the pleasure of working with Vern over the years and enjoyed his company at the last Board of Governors' meeting. He will be a fabulous representative for you, and I look forward to watching him take over as Governor and beginning his work.
Last month I reported on the status of our budget. I am happy to report that the Board of Governors approved the work that we have done thus far. The final budget will come for a vote at our September 22-23 meeting in Seattle. While working on the budget for the meeting, we received great news about the WSBA Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project. The good news is that the Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project has received a $1.1 million grant from the Attorney General's Office, Consumer Protection Division. (Funds came from a settlement reached with Wells Fargo regarding certain home loan practices.) The grant is enabling the WSBA to expand the project and continue it for another two years.
I also want to update you on the Moderate Means Program. This program links those who need legal services but do not qualify for legal aid, with lawyers who are willing to reduce their fees. It has been a great success so far and is just beginning. I encourage you to register to be a lawyer on the Moderate Means Panel. Clinics have been set up at all three law schools, and coordination to provide legal services to those of moderate means is occurring statewide.
It is also worth noting that as our current president, Steve Toole, begins to wrap up his year, our president-elect Steve Crossland, a wonderful lawyer from Cashmere, Washington, will prepare to take over the helm of the WSBA. As he transitions to be president, we welcome Michelle Radosevich, who begins her term as the president-elect.
Finally, I would like to thank those of you who have emailed and written to me this month regarding the budget and licensing fees. I truly appreciate your feedback and your involvement in your Bar Association. Everything that you provide to me I share with the other Governors and/or staff at the Bar. It is so nice to belong to a Bar where so many take ownership and pride in the way it is run and its future. I encourage you to continue to email me your thoughts and comments through my WSBA website.
I look forward to seeing all of you at the Pierce County Bar Convention.
Yours in Service,
Patrick A. Palace
Governor, Sixth District
There are few issues like the Legal Technician Rule that have created as much discussion among members of our bar. The legal technician rule has been the focus of considerable study for over ten (10) years. The Legal technician rule, after many years of study, debate, and discussion led to the creation of proposed (Admission to Practice Rule) APR 28. APR 28, was created in part after a civil legal needs study hat was commissioned by the Supreme Court in 2003. It showed that there was a considerable need for legal services among the citizens of Washington that was unmet.
In an effort to find a method to meet this unmet legal need, "legal technicians" would have a limited license to practice law. The proposed rule authorizes non-lawyers to render legal assistance for advice in family law matters. The rule does discuss conditions and limitation upon the provision of such legal service. The proposed rule requires that a legal technician attend an approved course of study, pass an examination and have a period of supervised practice. The legal technician would be required to be certified under APR 28, have a staffed office for the acceptance of service, would personally perform the services for the client and would enter into a written contract to provide those services.
The Washington Bar Association Board of Governors has considered this rule in its many forms over the course of the last decade. The WSBA took a vote to accept or reject the proposal in the Spring of 2007. The Board rejected the legal technician rule.
The Board of Governors felt that the proposed legal technician rule was problematic for four primary reasons:
- It was too expensive and would cost an estimated $200,000.00 in start up costs
- That the program could not be guaranteed to be self-supporting thus would be costly on a year to year basis
- There was concern that allowing legal technicians to practice law would not meet the unmet legal need but would simply create another tier of competition with existing lawyers; and
- That there would be substantial administrative burden on the WSBA that was not warranted.
APR 28 was sent to the Supreme Court for its consideration along with the vote by the Board of Governors to reject the legal technician rule. That rule has now remained before the Supreme Court since 2007.
Recently, the officers of the WSBA met with the Supreme Court privately to discuss a number of issues including APR 28. The Supreme Court has been looking for a solution to satisfy the unmet legal needs in our State and we discussed in earnest whether the legal technician rule and its $200,000.00+ startup cost was the appropriate or necessary answer. Consistent with the position of the Board of Governors, we did not support the adoption of APR 28.
The Bar has been well aware of this unmet need and has created a number of programs to assist those who need legal services but may not be able to afford them or have access to them.
The WSBA has stepped up to support families whose homes are threatened with mortgage foreclosure. Last year the WSBA created the Washington State Bar Association Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project. This is a partnership with the Northwest Justice Project that is assisting families statewide with legal help and representation during this mortgage crisis. In the first year of the program, it helped over 400 families at risk of foreclosure. Over 400 lawyers have volunteered and been trained to help offer mortgage foreclosure services and are participating in the program currently.
In response the need for legal services, the WSBA has both saved and bolstered Volunteer Legal Services state-wide and created the Mortgage Home Foreclosure Project. However, recognizing that more needed to be done this year, the Board of Governors approved and the WSBA is now implementing the Moderate Means Program.
The Moderate Means Program is a partnership between the WSBA and the law schools of Seattle University, University of Washington, and Gonzaga University. It is a statewide program that offers reduced fee lawyer referral services designed to help bring greater access to justice for people of moderate means in Washington State. Moderate means is defined as those within 200% to 400% of the federal poverty level. Those who are under the 200% of the poverty level may gain assistance through the Volunteer Legal Services programs.
As of our October 29, 2010 meeting, the University of Washington and Seattle University had hired a full time staff that will soon begin developing and administrating the Moderate Means Program. It is anticipated that the first client referrals will begin in early 2011.
During the officers meeting with the Supreme Court, we discussed these programs, in lieu of the legal technician rule, to emphasize the WSBA's commitment to providing services to meet the needs of citizens of this State. It has been the position of the Board of Governors that the legal technician rule was not necessary. The Supreme Court continues to consider the adoption or rejection of proposed APR 28.
On other matters, I am happy to report that the Bar is deep into a complete WSBA web-design. We have known for some time that our WSBA website has become too large and cumbersome. Indeed the website currently encompasses some 5,000 pages and we have begun a complete redesign that is coming to its completion after months of work. The new website will be much smaller, much easier to navigate and will make information easily accessible.
There is another emerging issue which I will dedicate more time to in my upcoming reports. In short, the proposal would view the WSBA under the same umbrella as the judiciary for purposes of dealing with public disclosure requests. The Board of Governors is now undertaking a serious policy review to decide whether we should accept the designation of WSBA to be that similar to the judiciary and thus subject to the same disclosure request by the same manner that would be provided by the judiciary, or whether we should be subject to the Public Records Act and all of the disclosure requirements under that act. Additionally, we could also define ourselves as neither "fish nor fowl" and work towards the provision of unique disclosure requirements that best fit the WSBA.
At the heart of this issue is the determination whether information regarding our members, the Bar staff, the Bar programs and other like information should be available to anyone who requests it and, additionally, determine who should pay the costs of such disclosures and how those costs can be contained. This is a significant policy discussion occurring at the board of Governors and I will keep you apprised as these discussions progress. We are also taking action to find solution to these issues.
Finally, I have been sworn in as Treasurer for our Bar and as such will begin a lengthy budget review to determine how we can continue to decrease expenditures in the Bar and use your mandatory dues in the most efficient and effective manner possible. I take very seriously my obligation to recognize all expenses and programs at the Bar and will work diligently to reduce any expenses that no longer fill our needs It is my goal to maintain Bar dues as low as we can and to only raise dues as absolutely necessary in the years to come to meet the increasing costs that all of us face in this changing economy.
Yours in Service,
Patrick A. Palace
Governor, Sixth District
As you all know, there has been a civil legal justice crisis in our state with the loss of millions of dollars per year of IOLTA revenue. IOLTA revenues are at historic lows; with this year's revenue projected to be less than $2 million (compare this to 2007 revenue of $9.2 million and 2008 revenue of $4.7 million). The WSBA Board of Governors voted to allocate $1.5 million to help bridge the gap in funding, granting this $1.5 million to the Legal Foundation of Washington, and also voted to establish an alliance with LAW Fund to help foster charitable donations to legal aid from members of the WSBA.
You may have noticed that when you filled out the new (and very short) WSBA licensing form this year, you were given the opportunity to make a contribution to the Campaign for Equal Justice. This resulted as part of our alliance with LAW Fund.
Owing in part to the WSBA's unprecedented efforts to protect the civil legal aid system, the Gates Foundation considered a grant. Late last year, the Gates Foundation pledged $3 million to support civil legal aid over the next three years. The Gates Foundation grant was beyond anyone's wildest hopes and is unprecedented.
So to recap - in 2009, we were in the middle of the perfect economic storm and civil legal aid in Washington as we have known it looked like it would come to an end. However, with the WSBA's $1.5 million grant, the Gates Foundation $3 million grant, and the new opportunity for members to make contributions as part of their annual licensing that has generated $320,000 in addition to other private donations, we dodged the bullet, but....
When you see that "but" you know that the other shoe is about to drop. Here it is: We are now in 2010 and we need to keep civil aid alive. Every year needs fresh donations to support the next year's work.
Without support from all bar members every year, every county's volunteer legal service program and the existence of civil legal aid continue to be in jeopardy.
Pierce County's Volunteer Legal Services budget is $186,000, of which $142,500 came from IOLTA and Campaign for Equal Justice revenues granted by the Legal Foundation of Washington. All but $43,500 of the Pierce County VLS budget came from IOLTA dollars.
In Pierce County, case intakes continue to rise. The Pierce County Volunteer Legal Services program expects over 2,000 new cases by the end of this year.
At the state level, the aggregate numbers are frightening. For example, this year there has been a 498% increase in unemployment cases, 291% increase in foreclosure cases, 145% increase in bankruptcy cases; 138% increase in food stamp cases and a 97% increase in domestic violence cases. Shockingly, the Northwest Justice Project finds that 58% of all cases they handle contain some domestic violence issue.
Legal needs both locally and statewide are escalating, while at the same time, the traditional sources of legal funding are limited and have been declining. Laurie Davenport, Program Director of Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association Volunteer Legal Service Program, has been clear that without the IOLTA monies from Legal Foundation of Washington, Pierce County may lose all or a substantial portion of our Tacoma-Pierce County pro bono program in 2011[d1] unless we fund our program. Unfortunately, this scenario is being played out county by county throughout this state as each Volunteer Legal Service Program faces this same reality.
We should all be proud of the gross dollars raised for the Campaign for Equal Justice in 2009. But, when you look at the percentages of giving, you can see that we have work to do. For example, only 24% of all lawyers gave to the Campaign during this year's licensing. We need the support of the other 76% of our bar. In Pierce County, 30% of all lawyers have given to the Campaign. This is a great start, but we can do better.
Let me make this point clear to everyone who thinks they are not "players" and don't have money to give: every donation is needed. If you can afford only $10, then do it. If you can give $50, then do it. More? Of course, if you can, but the point is that you need to give. The old adage that "many hands make light work" could not be more true. Imagine if we had 100% participation. Imagine if every lawyer gave $50. We would raise 1.6 million dollars for civil legal aid every year[d2].
We, as lawyers, have the ability to change lives - to give a voice to those who have no voice. With legal aid we can help resolve family crises such as foreclosures and evictions. With legal aid we fight consumer fraud and predatory lending. With legal aid we end domestic violence and help families obtain access to health care.
These are goals that everyone supports. So, as we begin this new year, we need to again reach into our pockets to ensure a continuum of services for those in need, so that no vulnerable population is left to "fall through the cracks" of our justice system. With your donation to the Campaign, you "walk the walk" by truly ensuring not just access to justice, but justice for all.
AND...giving is easy. Go to the website for the Campaign for Equal Justice (http://www.c4ej.org/) and click on the "Donate Now" button. Please join me in committing to support our volunteer legal services[d3].
Yours in Service,
Patrick A. Palace
Governor, Sixth District