Come Gather Young Lawyers: A Response to the Curmudgeon
By Barbara Engstrom, Executive Director
In the February edition of the Bar Bulletin, Mike Goldenkranz (self-described “full-time curmudgeon”) made a compelling appeal to our community to create pathways for young attorneys to pursue low bono law practice. Renting office space in the Puget Sound region is almost out of reach for young attorneys establishing a market-rate practice and virtually impossible for those starting a low bono practice. Add to that the cost of subscribing to Westlaw or Lexis and the other expenses of running a law office and suddenly you realize that maybe the only newbie attorney who will be able to afford to go low bono upon becoming barred is Kim Kardashian.
Mike made several suggestions to help overcome these barriers. As we read through his suggestions, my staff and I thought, wait – the King County Law Library already provides a lot of the services Mike mentions. Below are the law library’s responses to several of Mike’s suggestions.
“You may ask, what can more established lawyers do to help? Plenty, as it turns out. Young low bono lawyers need tools, support, and office space that is truly affordable and accessible.”
One of Mike’s main suggestions was for law firms to offer excess or unused office space to low bono attorneys for reasonable rates. I invite low bono attorney to consider the King County Law Library as a coworking office space. What types of amenities might a new attorney need in office space? A wish list might look something like this:
- A desirable location close to the courthouse
- Wi-Fi access
- A variety of seating arrangements for solo and collaborative work
- Printing, copying, and scanning.
- Access to secure conference rooms for trial preparation
- Private space for meeting with clients
- Westlaw and research databases availability
- CLE/ professional development opportunities
- Ready access to legal research expertise
As it happens, the King County Law Library provides all these things and more. We have prime space in the heart of the courthouse in both our Seattle and the Kent locations. The building-wide Wi-Fi network provides very fast and reliable internet access. Our workspaces are configured to provide a variety of seating arrangements that can accommodate solo or collaborative work, including quiet tables tucked into the stacks with fantastic views of the Sound and the Olympics. We also offer on-demand printing, copying, and scanning. If you need to use a computer while you’re here, we’ve got that covered too.
Market rates for this type of coworking space in Seattle would be $300-$500 a month. Not to worry, all are welcome to use the law library space for free.
Westlaw and Legal Research Database Access
“I’ve been told (and granted, it’s hearsay) that Westlaw and Lexis are still too expensive for these altruistic newbies embarking on low bono practices. I’ve not investigated pricing, but perhaps firms, law schools and Bar Associations can make those services available to those still idealistic enough to follow their passion and try to bridge the access divide while hoping they’ll be able to make a living.”
The Law Library’s in-house patrons have access to a very robust Westlaw subscription that includes all state and federal primary law and trial documents, jury verdicts, the full treatise and law review collection, and practitioner sets from every state including Washington Practice. In addition to Westlaw, in-house patrons can access the WSBA Deskbooks and KCBA Lawyer’s Practice Manual online and in print, Support Calc, Hein Online, and a very large eBook collection from Lexis Digital which includes the complete ABA treatise collection. Patrons also have access to the legal research expertise of the law library staff.
“For lawyers working from their homes, meeting clients at the local coffee shop gets old (and compromises confidentiality). Conference rooms in law firms often go unused. They could be made available to low bono lawyers at very modest hourly rates.”
The law library has ample conference room space for short term reservations for private client meetings, Zoom hearings, or telephone conferences. For longer term uses such as multi-day depositions or extended trials, we offer full day conference room rentals and multi-day availability to set up a war room with secure equipment storage and access for the duration of a trial. Rooms can be reserved for a very reasonable fee of $20 per hour for subscribers and $35 per hour for non-subscribers. Conference rooms that are not reserved are offered on a first come, first serve basis at no cost. See our Conference Room webpage for more information. https://kcll.org/reserve-a-conference-room/
In addition to Mike’s suggestions, the law library also offers other services and opportunities for new attorneys to establish low bono practices and help with developing their reputation and client base. Members of our subscriber program have remote access to our Lexis Digital eBook collection. Subscribers can access the WSBA Deskbooks, the King County Lawyer’s Practice Manual, Annotated Statutes and Court Rules along with hundreds of other treatises from the convenience of home. While remote access to the Lexis Digital eBook is only available to subscribers, the law library also offers a wealth of remote access to eBooks and legal research databases to non-subscribers as well. These include the National Consumer Law Center, Nolo Press, and Wolter’s Kluwer’s Vital Law databases. See our Remote Databases page for more information. https://kcll.org/remote-databases/
We often team up with attorneys working in fields that have a strong pro se/ access to justice component to present workshops or create video content to assist pro se patrons. This is a great way for newer attorneys to market themselves and their low bono practice. We’ve teamed with attorneys for workshops and videos on family law, civil litigation, probate, wills, power of attorney, and protection orders just to name a few subject areas. We are happy to work newer attorneys on these types of projects and love when they suggest workshops. For more information see our videos webpage. https://kcll.org/videos/
How You Can Help!
“What can start immediately, though, is for firms, law libraries, law schools and bar associations, to post notices in the local bar bulletins, state bar magazine, and other media and venues where our young access-to-justice legal eagles look, listing office space, conference rooms, legal research applications and law practice desk book help on easily-afforded terms.”
As noted in this article, the King County Law Library is a fantastic resource for newbie attorneys interested in embarking on a low bono practice and we check all the boxes Mike mentions. For most of the issues, we already have a service in place. What we really need is help getting the word out.
- If you work with newer public interest-minded attorneys, please show them a copy of this article.
- If you are part of a professional organization or special interest section that connects with newer attorneys, please consider saying a word or two about the King County Law Library’s services at your next meeting.
- If you are a newer attorney and would like more information on any of our services, opportunities for speaking or creating video content, or becoming a subscriber please visit our website at kcll.org or email us at email@example.com.
Finally, a big thanks the Mike Goldenkranz for bringing up the issues facing new attorneys trying to make a dent in access to justice and low bono services and for making a compelling case for ways we all can help.
 Michael Goldenkranz, Access to Justice: Representation for Modest Means Clients, King County Bar Bulletin (Feb 2023) [MBG is retired but remains a full-time curmudgeon, who volunteers at KCBA Neighborhood Legal Clinics and has been a friend of both the NLC and Pro Bono Committees.]