Maine Community Law Center
In the Fall of 2015, the Maine Community Law Center opened and now offers legal services to Mainers of modest means, increasing access to justice while providing a legal residency program to new lawyers.
Many law schools, bar associations, and other organizations across the U.S. have started programs referred to as “incubators” or residency programs for lawyers: the idea is to increase access to justice through a professional training and support program for new attorneys. With now over 35 programs in 18 states, it is an idea that has been tested and proved successful across the country. Maine's first incubator program, the Maine Community Law Center, opened in the fall of 2015.
The MCLC offers legal services to people of modest means, those who earn too much to qualify for legal aid but cannot afford a full priced attorney. The clients pay a flat fee or on a sliding fee scale. Clients who need help with only part of their case, or services that can be provided through technology, can further reduce client costs. The new attorneys will be connected to senior attorneys in the community who practice in a variety of fields who can provide specific guidance on a case by case basis.
Many people in Maine who need to access the courts do so without the benefit of an attorney. The consequences are significant: the individuals involved may not understand the process and have disappointing and confusing results. Mistakes can have serious consequences for the best interests of children as well as financial problems for the parties. Errors can require a return trip to court to be corrected, with more expenses. The public’s confidence in the court system as a source of justice has become frayed. The court system faces delays, difficulties and inefficient operations due to inexperienced litigants needing more time and direction from judges, magistrates and clerks. The consumers of legal services need more options for assistance when legal aid is not available and the retainers of a typical law firm are out of reach.
The MCLC is a nonprofit corporation, and the program is built on a sustainable model that relies on fee generation to meet its budget, and thus does not compete with other legal aid projects for scarce resources. MCLC uses the most advanced file management and billing software to streamline those functions and reduce administrative costs. Clients in more remote areas will be encouraged to use technology to meet with their lawyer virtually and save travel time and costs.
If you want to contribute to the costs of this program, you can click here:
If you'd like to know more or get involved in this project, please contact Elizabeth Stout through the contact link above.
For more information about legal incubators and residency programs in general, click here:
Here's a video that includes comments from incubator lawyers about their experiences:
Here's a video from the ABA: an interview with an incubator lawyer in the Justice Bridge program in Massachusetts