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Need Affordable Legal Services?
Published Thursday, August 3, 2017

The NH Bar Association (NHBA) in Concord launched the Modest Means Legal Referral Program earlier this summer to increase access to affordable legal services. The program seeks to connect consumers who can afford a lawyer’s full market rate with NH attorneys willing to offer discounted costs for legal representation.

“The program’s name reflects the clients the program will serve,” says Brad Kuster, chair of the NHBA’s Lawyer Referral Service Subcommittee. “By expanding the income levels for eligibility, more people can get referrals.”

Under the program’s eligibility guidelines and sliding fee scale, a family of four making up to $79,950 per year would pay $125 per hour for legal help. The Modest Means Legal Program provides those living between 150 and 250 percent of federal poverty level (FPL) with an $80 hourly rate for legal services; for those between 251 and 300 percent, the cap is $100; and for those between 301 and 325 percent, the cap is $125.

It’s unclear exactly how many NH residents the Modest Means Legal Program could potentially help, but statistics indicate the number could be substantial. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 333,700 people in NH live between 200 and 399 percent of FPL.

The Modest Means Legal Program is also expected to reduce the number of litigants who attempt to navigate the court system on their own. The NH Judicial Branch estimates that between 61 and 70 percent of all litigants in NH are self-represented, which puts considerable strain on the justice system.

The Modest Means Legal Program is part of the NH Bar Association’s legal services offerings, which include the Lawyer Referral Service (full-fee) and Pro Bono Referral Program for low-income people.

“The Modest Means Program can help by qualifying more people at higher income levels than ever before to receive reduced-fee legal services and connecting them with the right attorney to handle the case,” says Sheila Vermacy, coordinator of the Modest Means Legal Program and Lawyer Referral Service.

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