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« Recognizing the Need for Assistance | Main | Multi-State Law Practice: Pros and Cons »

August 15, 2008


Stephen Howard

I have always been an advocate for assistance to the needy. The center in question here wasn't so much a program for the needy, but a general program to make it easier for anyone to file pro se.

I can see why the local firms were anxious. There is a tremendous competition for cases in Texas between attorneys. They have already resigned themselves to not helping the needy because they can't get paid for that. So they are all competing for the client base that isn't served by need based organizations. When the government created the self help center in dipped deeply into the pool of potential cases by essentially cutting across the board to all potential clients.

In a capitalist economy the government is not supposed to compete with the private sector. If the government does compete it has the power to become a monopoly. The self help center was going to become the big fish, appealing to all people who want to do their divorce cheaply, and would have essentially put all the family law attorneys out of business (except for highly contentious cases).

It is the same resistance felt towards offering a government sponsored healthcare system. No matter how needed the service is, offering it puts a lot existing providers into competition with a large, non-profit based competitor they can't beat.

Are these types of services needed? Sure. Are they unfair competition? Definitely. Is there another way to do serve the same purpose? There should be.

If the budget were allocated towards making incentives for reduced fee work, or if there were changes in the law to make it easier to do an uncontested divorce, the result would have been the same without creating the vastly more competitive self-help center. It takes creativity for a government to provide services if they want to avoid becoming a competitor or destroying a market.

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