Keys to Justice – Changes and a New Path Ahead

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A Great Start

We've officially passed our first 6 months as an organization. Start-up companies and non-profits come and go quickly and the majority of them fail in their first year. But we've been blessed with great support and great clients that have let us accomplish so much already. As of the end of the second quarter we've talked to over 85 people who needed help with legal problems and couldn't find an attorney anywhere else. We've opened 43 of those cases in our first six months and we've been able to close out nearly a dozen. People have retained custody of their children, have been kept out of jail, and have found help where they thought they were all alone.

As a young but growing organization, we're experiencing a lot of growing pains, and we're all still experimenting with the best way to keep helping people. Our interns and attorney often volunteer an enormous amount of hours. Our staff attorney has taken a huge cut in pay to come help people with us. And we've discovered that our current structure is sustainable but will never provide us with what we need to grow, find our own office space, and continue to help even more people.

Our organization was started to aim at a gap in the justice system, people who made too much money for the free pro-bono clinics in our area but not enough to pay private attorneys. Unfortunately because the pro-bono resources are so overloaded and the need is so great, many of our clients are people who make below our normal income minimum. We do what we can to make payment arrangements, cut discounts, and otherwise provide service to these people - because we're committed to helping everyone who walks through the door. But our core belief is that people in the community who have a little more, should help people who don't have enough.

Changes in Our Billing Structure

So in order to improve sustainability, and help even more people in the long-run, we're raising our minimum billing rate to $75 an hour for future clients. This is still at least 50% (and sometimes more) off the normal market rates for our area, meaning we remain the cheapest non-free legal services available. In order to make sure the clients that are on the bottom end of our scale and need help the most desperately, we're also immediately creating a Subsidy Fund which will assist our poorest clients.

From this point on, 5% of all revenue, whether from private donations or client fees, will be diverted into a Keys to Justice program fund. As long as there are funds available in the Keys to Justice program, clients who are below our normal income minimum guidelines will be guaranteed a $35 an hour rate for the first ten hours of legal work in their case. Often in smaller cases this first ten hours is enough to see the entire case through to completion. In this way, we'll be able to offer clients who need our help the most an even better rate than they're already paying, while improving the organization's situation and resources by raising the minimum rate for clients who can afford a little more.

But the Keys to Justice program will only work with YOUR help, people who may have legal issues and could pay $75 an hour but not the $200 an hour that's the market rate. We need the people who support us and our staff and want to see the organization flourish with their private donations. And we need our community partners working together to provide resources and knowledge that will improve our city for everyone.

Posted in Legal, Staff Thoughts.

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