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February 25, 2020 #LRIS2Know

Expanding Civil Legal Services through Limited Scope Representation and Modest Means

By Teresa Kenton

The  Texas Lawyer Referral Service (TxLRS) like many other referral services get several requests daily for a pro-bone or modest-means attorney especially related to family law. This issue is compounded by the fact that our greatest request for assistance is to locate a family law attorney.

The Texas Lawyer Referral Service does have a modest-means program and we are grateful for the attorneys willing to serve this population.  However, the need is far greater than the resources available through just the Texas Lawyer Referral Services' modest means program leaving this vulnerable population unserved or under-served.

America Family Law Center is the not-for-profit organization that operates the Texas Lawyer Referral Service. Our organization’s mission is to enhance the lives of children and families through education, assistance, and access to justice. So we start to think about ways to partner our various programs to serve those in the Justice Gap.

Together our two programs, Texas Lawyer Referral Service and America Family Law Center (our legal service program known by the same name) offer an innovative program that parallels the December 6, 2016 Report of the Texas Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services. This report establishes that the practice of family law is well suited for limited scope and is expected to be used more in uncontested and modestly-contested family issues than other fields of litigation. Thus, through the America Family Law Center, the Texas Lawyer Referral Service can offer a real affordable option to those callers that can't afford a traditional attorney relationship.

America Family Law Center offers a program where a self-represented individual gets the services of licensed family law attorneys to help them work their case and get some assistance of counsel. The attorneys at America Family Law Center provide distinct and agreed-upon legal services instead of making general appearances in court or managing all facets of the client's case.

The program doesn’t stop there. We have also partnered with an attorney that has put together a limited-scope document services program that is a flat fee service to provide professionally prepared documents for any of the clients of America Family Law Center. Making this a comprehensive program that allows those that may not be able to afford to access justice real help. Many of America Family Law Center's clients are able to resolve their case without a contested hearing.

Following the mission of public service, lawyer referral services across the nation should always look at how they may be better able to help those often left unserved or underserved.  Not only can we provide our participating lawyers with quality client referrals but also provide those who may not be able to afford a traditional attorney relationship with real options.  We need to be on the leading edge of legal services by developing innovative options within each community; whether that is expanding our modest means program, developing a limited scope program or partnering with services that already might be in our community.

Teresa Kenton

Executive Director

Teresa Kenton is Executive Director of the Texas Lawyer Referral Service or "TxLRS" and CEO of the America Family Law Center. Under her leadership, both organizations work together to broaden access to affordable legal representation in family law matters.