The Advocacy Subcommittee (“Advocacy”) of the Solo and Small Firm Section Executive Committee has been keeping a finger on the pulse of legislation and rulemaking activity it feels is of interest to section members. We would like to make you aware of two issues currently in play that could significantly affect the practices of solo and small firms: (1) County law library funding and (2) Attorney fee sharing and lawyer referral services.
Many of the section members we have informally spoken with were not initially aware of these issues, but are now concerned about the potential outcomes. We would be interested to receive your response to these issues. If there is significant interest in either of them, we will continue to track them and share further information with the section.
If you are concerned and motivated, please consider getting involved and working with Advocacy in its efforts. Contact John Koch at [email protected] for more information.
Issue 1: County Law Library Funding – In 2018, the Oregon legislature expanded the permissible uses of state funds traditionally dedicated to county law libraries to permit the use of the funds by county circuit court “facilitation programs.” HB 4097 (Enrolled 2018) amended ORS 9.820 by redefining county “law library services” to include court facilitation programs. Such programs are designed to provide pro se litigants with court forms, assistance in completing court forms, information about court procedures, and referrals to legal services. Currently, ORS 9.820 applies only to Multnomah County.
In 2019, SB 858 was proposed which would have made ORS 9.820 applicable to all Oregon counties. However, this bill did not pass.
The issue of whether and how to continue funding county law libraries has been debated for the last several legislative sessions and will likely continue to be discussed for the foreseeable future. For the 2019-2021 biennium, the legislature appropriated $7.1 million for law libraries and law library services. This money is distributed by the Chief Justice to the counties based on revenue received from filing fees imposed on civil cases. This amount is approximately a 3% reduction from the previous biennium. The decrease is equivalent to the decreases in funding for the conciliation and mediation program, the Council on Court Procedures, the Oregon Law Commission and other services contained in the Oregon Judicial Department budget.
Issue 2: Attorney Fee Sharing/Lawyer Referral Services – Two years ago, the House of Delegates considered a proposal by the OSB Futures Task Force to permit fee sharing with for-profit lawyer referral services. After concerns came out during discussion by the HOD, the Board of Governors decided to create a Referral Fees Task Force to consider the issue in more depth. The report of that task force is now available: Referral Fees Committee Report. The Board of Governors has decided not to send a resolution to HOD this year, and simply accepted the report. If you feel strongly about the issue one way or the other, now is a good time to voice your opinion and get involved.
Written by: Advocacy Subcommittee, OSB Solo and Small Firm Section Executive Committee
Contact John Koch at [email protected] for more information regarding law library funding; contact Dona Marie Hippert at [email protected] for more information about attorney fee sharing/lawyer referral services or with general ideas, questions, and issues for Advocacy to highlight in the future. Thanks in advance for your participation!