Monday, August 13, 2007

Access to Justice at 70 euros an hour!

All through July and into August there have been "grave" words spoken about the iniquitous drive by the Polish government to improve access to justice. Now I believe in access to justice and have done some research in the area, but in this case I have two research areas intersecting: legal profession and access to justice.

According to the Financial Times, "The plans are part of the policy of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Polish prime minister, to broaden social provision and give state help to people who feel they have lost out in the transformation to a market economy."

The plans, however, include one provision that is driving lawyers wild with anger and frustration. All legal fees--yes, ALL--will be capped at 70 euros an hour (£47, $96).

All those corporate law firms out of London and New York won't be able to charge more. White & Case, Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, and Linklaters will have to lower their current 200 euro minimum fees or leave.

The British and American ambassadors are doing their bit as are the Law Society and other legal bodies. They are also worried that if Poland implements this law other new EU member states will follow.

In the case of Poland it's tough because for a number of law firms, it's their base into central Europe. Added to which there are the European Football Cup finals in Poland and Ukraine in 2012 with all their concomitant contract work. How will it be done? On the cheap? Unlikely.

Maybe if the law firms had paid more attention to their pro bono activities, been more socially aware, perhaps... Who knows?

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