Lawyers Being Asked to Pay-To-Play

The Iowa Bar Association (lawyers not bartenders) is considering whether lawyers should be taxed, they call it a fee, for providing free legal services to those who are unrepresented. I find this to be a terrible idea.

I am against a mandatory pay-to-play system. Taxing those with a law license to pay for society's unmet needs is an attempt to employ a political solution by adding to the already high cost of running a law practice. It is just one more nail in the coffin of being an overburdened lawyer. It will result in one more form to file, six more rules to adhere to, two more fees to pay, two hours less time in a lawyer's schedule all the while discouraging young people to want to practice law in Iowa. Iowan's like to think they are a step up from the rest of the country and know better than the rest about what is good for society. Well we aren’t so special.

This is a slippery slope. If this measure passes, the Iowa Bar Association is no longer a bar association; it then becomes a politicial entity. Bar associations govern lawyers who solve legal problems. Unlike professional organizations, political organizations generate revenue to try and solve social problems. We are lawyers, not politicians. Politicians are elected by voters who pay taxes. We are professionals who hold a license and take a position for clients with legal problems. If the Iowa Bar Association passes this measure then as a matter of fairness the manner in which officers are elected needs to be changed to one by popular vote. That way the "lawyer voters" can toss out those who do things the "voters" don't support. Steve Lombardi, Lawyer and voluntary member of the Iowa Bar Association

Why does everyone need a lawyer for every legal problem? Simply put, some are not deserving and don’t deserve a lawyer. Is simply being poor enough of a reason to be provided with free legal services? What about the working poor? Shouldn’t a widow with three children who works and is not technically poor be worthy of legal assistance? Why should the bar association tell me who I should provide free legal services to? That is my right having earned the degree and license to choose who I want to give my time. Not a bunch of grumpy old men and women who know nothing about the hundreds of communities throughout rural and urban Iowa where lawyers choose to live.

Some people are poor by choice.

Are the poor, those who are lazy or who waste their own resources, really deserving of free legal services? I agree that not all who are poor are lazy or waste their resources, but many do. The current system works just fine. Those who deserve free legal services are capable of conveying their legitimate need to a caring lawyer who then, of his/her own free will, donates their time and money to right a wrong. Taking money from lawyers will backfire because those being forced to pay will turn their phones off to those who come calling for pro bono legal services. "Sorry I already gave at the office" will be the mantra adopted. Those who want and can donate do; and those who can't or won’t don't. That is the American way. This is a tax and it is nothing more than a socialist program that promotes litigation and is being disguised as an attempt to help the poor.

This is not a fee to manage or to insure risk of managing lawyers in a bar association; it is a social program (i.e., a socialist program). Someone wants to promote a common good rather than a legitimate cost associated with running a bar association. To do that you have to stop seeing lawyers as lawyers and begin seeing them as revenue generators. Where will this end? What are legitimate limits to what social ills the Bar Association can then strive to correct? The fee being proposed has nothing to do with practicing law. This tax is simply being used as an excuse to generate more dollars for something having little or nothing to do with running a bar assosiation or the legal work I do for my clients; simply put it is a revenue generator. When will we see a security fee for simply walking through the metal detectors at the courthouse? In fact if you used the metal detectors you could simply keep all the change in your pockets and know you got it all.

Like Joe Holland I oppose the measure

So let us call this what it really is. This is a tax. It is not "pay or play", but "pay to play"; because if you don't pay then they take away your license to practice law. It is forcing lawyers to pay a tax for an effort that is bound to backfire and to fail. The amount collected will pay mostly salaries and do little if anything for those who are legitimately poor and in need of legal services. The amount collected will be miniscule, the demand still unmet, and in the end the next round will “request” more money from lawyers in order to play in the legal sandbox. 

Steve Lombardi
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