Dear Legal Grind,
This long overdue note is to thank you for the help that you have provided.
Your legal Clinics have helped me with my legal questions and situations. I've also been helped emotionally in that I walked in feeling vulnerable and uncertain and left feeling much better. I felt welcomed and a genuine concern for my situation.
I'm grateful that you're around!
Bonnie J - Santa Monica
When I was a kid, I thought that I might like to open a restaurant someday. As a teenager, I worked in restaurants to earn extra money and to learn the business. I liked the cordial restaurant atmosphere.
At the same time, I also had in mind the ambition to become a lawyer. However, I did not consider the atmosphere of the typical law office to be warm or inviting. Law firms in general can be stuffy, cold and imposing. I couldn't picture myself in a three piece suit behind a fancy desk. I only knew for sure that as a lawyer I would be in a position to help people.
Eventually, I went to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. My friends, like myself, were values-oriented and shied away from adopting the typical lawyer style of fast talk and high fees. We wanted to carve out an individual niche within the profession, which is hard to do, but not impossible.
After graduating from law school and passing the bar exam, I had a hard time deciding exactly what I wanted to do. At that time the job market for lawyers was tight, and I didn't want the types of law jobs that were available. I wasn't interested in representing insurance companies; I wanted to help people.
For two years I worked in a variety of jobs while trying to figure out what I could do with my law degree. At one point, I got tired of looking and interviewed for a job with a traditional law firm. I was offered a position at the firm and was told to start work a week later. During that week, I went to Lake Tahoe for vacation, relieved to have a permanent job, and full of optimism about my future in law. When I returned, I was told that there was no position after all. I was devastated. I decided to leave Los Angeles and look for work in San Francisco.
In San Francisco, it was more of the same. The job market there was no better than Los Angeles. The lack of work and overabundance of rain caused me to seek refuge in the city's many coffeehouses. At this point I decided to realize my initial boyhood dream of opening a cafe. I moved back to Los Angeles, where at least the weather was better.
THE LITTLE LAW BOOK
by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, J.D
On the way back to Southern California, I stopped in Santa Barbara to visit a friend. Across the street from her apartment was a combination laundromat and coffeehouse. It had comfortable couches and a television; it was even enjoyable to do laundry there! Suddenly, I had my unique idea. If laundry and coffee could go together, I figured a legal service could be provided in a cafe. The idea seemed to combine all of my interests. I love to help people, and I'm also an educator at heart. I realized that I could teach people about the law, and help them to access the help that they need, and all this for the price of a cup of coffee!
Since the legal grind cafe opened in the winter of 1996, we've had many success stories, but Harry's case was especially gratifying. Harry, a former veteran, virtually destitute, who supported himself by doing odd jobs around his neighborhood, came to the cafe six months after being hit by a bus. The impact was so severe that the bus windshield was shattered, and Harry, who was knocked unconscious for two days, required over 100 stitches in his head. At the local V.A. hospital where he was treated, someone advised him to get a lawyer, and gave him a referral. Unfortunately, Harry's attorney was never available by telephone, did not respond to Harry's requests for information, and even pressured Harry to accept an undivulged settlement fee that would barely have paid his medical expenses. Harry was very upset and didn't know where to turn until somebody told him about the Legal Grind® cafe. One of my volunteer attorneys, David Olan, met with him and was able to help him obtain a reasonable settlement of his case. There are many like Harry who need legal help, but they don't know where to turn. These people lack empowerment and funds to get needed representation. We hope that in the future more of them will find their way to a Legal Grind® cafe.
So now, my early dreams are being fulfilled. I am practicing law in a non-traditional manner, and helping to restore the image of law as a service profession. My thoughts often turn to Abraham Lincoln, who has always been my role model. (How fitting it is that Legal Grind® is located on Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica!) Lincoln was not only incredibly bright, independent and ethical. He was also personable, compassionate and willing to talk to anyone, no matter their station in life. That is the approach to the practice of law that I and my volunteer attorneys at Legal Grind® share.
Community: Coffeehouses can help bring a sense of community to urban neighborhoods. LegalGrind® full-service coffee bars and friendly operators allow them to become part of their host communities, setting them apart from the competition. Citizens are focusing on bringing positive change to their communities, which requires interaction with others outside of the home and work. Coffeehouses bring people together in an appealing, relaxing atmosphere to converse and share information, and build a sense of community, all for the cost of a cup of coffee.
Innovation: LegalGrind® is dedicated to improving the delivery of legal services to moderate-income people who do not qualify for legal aid yet lack the discretionary income to pay for traditional services. According to Mary K. Ryan, Chair of the ABA's standing committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, "Legal Grind® demonstrates the type of commitment to innovation that the legal profession needs to pursue."
Value: In order to create a market for legal services amongst middle- and low-income people, LegalGrind® will continue to make its services setting comfortable and affordable. By driving down the average price through fair competition, by encouraging the client to use only necessary services, and by providing the support that permits clients to appear in court “in pro per” (without an attorney) where advisable, the LegalGrind® has brought quality law within the financial reach of middle-income individuals. According to Founder Jeffrey J. Hughes, "Clients should walk away feeling they got more than what they paid for."
Integrity: An ABA Legal Needs Study found that three-fourths of low-income households and two-thirds of middle-income households refuse to seek legal help for their disputes partly because they don’t trust attorneys. LegalGrind®'s Coffee & Counsel℠ blends philanthropic and entrepreneurial interests to help restore the reputation of lawyers. Participating attorneys donate some time in part as a gesture of good will, yet they are simultaneously introduced to a new client base and source of referrals.
Collaboration: Collaboration between Legal Grind® operators, attorneys and their clients is necessary for those attorneys willing to commit a certain portion of their practice to providing unbundled legal services to pro se clients. LegalGrind®’s attorneys will often delegate their workload to the operator, so the attorney can focus on the more complicated and contested issues that need to be addressed. Likewise, in performing tasks for customers, operators must recognize when a problem goes beyond document preparation, thus necessitating an attorney's attention.
Service: LegalGrind®'s cutting edge business model would wither on the vine without exemplary customer service. LegalGrind® provides its services in a friendly, one-on-one atmosphere. When contemplating hiring any professional, customers appreciate face-to-face contact; the consumer wants to know his legal matter is personally met with individual care and attention. Additionally, LegalGrind®'s slogan, Justice Served Daily® reminds both attorneys and clients that the legal profession is a service business.