Podcast #39: Tips for Representing Low-Income Clients, with Martha Delaney


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Representing low-income clients can present challenges for lawyers who are not used to it, but learning to meet those challenges is a good lesson in basic client service. While we’re on the subject, what is the access-to-justice gap everyone is talking about, and can you really build a profitable law practice serving people who fall into that gap?

Is There Really an Opportunity to Find Paying Clients in the Access-to-Justice Gap?

In one of the essays from The Relevant Lawyer: Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession, law professor Thomas Morgan says that in the 1960s, 55% of the NY bar primarily represented individual clients. By 1995, only 30% of the NY bar primarily represented individuals, with the rest focusing on business and government.

Growth, in other words, has been tied to business, not individual clients. So if business is where the money is, is it really possible to build a sustainable business representing clients who, by definition, can’t afford a lawyer?

Sam thinks so, but Aaron has questions.

Tips for Representing Low-Income Clients, with Martha Delaney


It’s not that representing low-income clients is hard; it’s just that low-income clients magnify problems you may not realize you have when representing other clients. On today’s podcast, Martha Delaney explains common misconceptions many lawyers have about representing low-income clients, identifies barriers to representing clients, talks about good client service.

If you represent clients, you’ll get something from this podcast — whether or not they are low-income.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!

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  • Susan

    Thanks for presenting both this podcast and the earlier one about Shantelle Argyle’s non-profit law firm. I have an immigration law practice, and many of my clients are low income. In today’s podcast, I was particularly interested in the discussion about oral and print culture. I had noticed this, and struggled with it in my dealing with clients (both in getting necessary information from clients and the extra time involved in doing so), but this podcast helped to frame the issues arising from these differences in way that goes beyond the frustration of noticing the differences to how can I deal with the differences in a constructive way with my clients.
    I enjoy your website and the variety of topics you cover. Thanks!

    • Thanks for listening, and for the feedback!

  • Teri Morrell

    Thank you for this podcast. I have just opened my practice with a plan to reach people in the access to justice gap. Many of the free legal services have income limits that are too low for many clients, leaving moderate income clients with no where to go within their reach. I hope to fill this need by providing affordable legal services.
    Your take on parity with the client was also helpful. It’s a small thing to worry about, but I want my clients to have a feeling that I am approachable and that I can relate to them, and worried that wearing a suit would be off-putting, I’m glad to know that others feel the same way.