A recent ABA Journal story, “These Law Students Combine Technology With Fee-Generating Cases” reports that some law students at Suffolk University are getting real-life experience on how to make money handling fee-shifting with the help of technology. Six law students, working under the supervision of seasoned lawyers, are participating in a so-called Accelerator Practice, an in-house practice representing average income individual in mostly fee-shifting cases.
In fee-shifting cases, Suffolk Law’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Clinical Professor of Law Ilene Seidman explains, the winning lawyer’s fees are paid by the losing side. In addition to donations from alumni and others, those collected fees will help run the Accelerator Program.
The Accelerator Practice takes as a given that there is a large group of moderate-income individuals who can’t afford an expensive firm, but whose cases are strong enough to merit the attention of a small practice whose attorneys can make a decent living handling mostly fee-shifting cases.
The ready availability of such cases makes sense. The American Bar Association and the Legal Services Corporation estimate that 85 percent of people in civil cases lack legal representation. It’s a nationally recognized problem called the “justice gap,” and the Accelerator helps address it.
“The statistics show the work is there,” says law student Michael Eidlin, “but a firm taking on fee-shifting cases needs to be efficient and smart about how it chooses cases and in the systems by which those cases are managed. If we’re efficient, we can take more cases and it becomes a numbers game. The result is that you process enough cases to make a career by tapping into a large and mostly ignored market. And for me, I’m in the sweet spot if I can build a career that’s based around helping others.”