Protest sparks fees debate

Anti-lawyer protesters demonstrated outside the American Bar Association conference in New Orleans chanting: “Stop the lawyers. Stop the lawyers.”

One protester said: “No-one in this country can afford justice except the millionaire. I'd rather go to jail than pay some of those fees they charge.”

Inside, attorneys were worried. The ABA spent $750,000 this year in an attempt to restore the profession's reputation to the good opinion of the US public. A video, “One client at a time” is to be released shortly.

President Bill Ide said: “Bills are a major issue. We will clarify to lawyers that they must be responsible for them. But we also want to stress the importance of bedside manner.”

He also called for an independent review of the legal profession and the whole system of justice in America.

He said: “We are getting together with local Bars in 20 states and getting them in the march to form State Justice Commissions to review the justice systems.”

The states are almost entirely from the East or West coasts and virtually exclude the Mid-West and Southern belts.

“We want a user-friendly system to deal with complaints in each law firm,” says Ide.

He also pledged to puncture “parachute lawyers” who swoop on rival firms to take clients using unethical methods.

A number of other initiatives, including a discussion about non-adversarial approaches for law in the 21st century, and the establishment of a non-lawyer advisory committee, were also to be included in the 1994-95 drive to persuade an angry public that their complaints are being addressed.

Ide also announced that “Inside the Law”, a special series of cable television programmes covering current legal issues would be run in New Orleans during the conference. Thereafter, the series will made available for broadcast on local television stations.

Broadcasters would be encouraged to screen the discussion shows as part of their educational programming.