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Don’t raise advocates’ pay through coercion The article, “Citing low pay, lawyers refuse indigent cases” [NLJ, Aug. 23, Page 4], on the Massachusetts bar advocates, left out a very important point: As independent sellers of legal services in private law practices, assigned counsel are not permitted under federal antitrust laws to act together to force a buyer of their services (e.g., the state and its taxpayers) to increase fees. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court heard all the same arguments made now by the bar advocates, in a case involving indigent defense counsel in Washington. The court rejected each of the reasons for the so-called “strike,” and declared that a group boycott aimed at increasing fees is a clear violation of the antitrust laws. FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Assn. (1990). [See http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/stories/storyReader$1954]. Whatever a “fair fee” might be, it should not be the result of unlawful, unethical, coordinated pressure on the courts and the legislature by “officers of the court.” Yes, politicians should set a fee level that takes into account the long-term effects on the supply and quality of legal services. But they should not have to act under the gun of coercive, collective refusals to deal, which have created an avoidable crisis. David A. Giacalone Schenectady, N.Y. Court reporters better than tape recorders I would like to clarify some aspects of “Court reporters fight digital audio tapes” [NLJ, July 12, Page 1]. The article inaccurately describes the plans to implement digital audio recording systems in courtrooms in New Hampshire as a way to bring computers to the courtroom. The fact is, computers have been in the New Hampshire courts for decades thanks to stenographic court reporters who have used the most advanced computerized technologies to enhance the functioning of the judicial system in both headline trials and everyday depositions for years. A computerized court reporter providing real-time reporting, which is the only current method for immediate voice-to-text translation, allows attorneys and judges to have immediate access to the transcript. Audio recording is not “computerized reporting.” It’s simply tape recording. While electronic recording devices have improved somewhat over the years, they are still no match for the reliability of human court reporters. The federal courts and multiple state courts have found that using tape-recording systems in criminal or civil cases can cause court delays, increase costs and result in the need for retrials. Such systems are also associated with hidden costs and can lengthen the appellate process. Court reporters not only use the most technologically advanced equipment, they are also the most efficient, accurate and cost-effective method for converting the spoken word into text. E. Duane Smith Baltimore The writer is president of the National Court Reporters Association. Editor’s note: The story in question does not involve the issue of whether computers have been used in New Hampshire courtrooms, but focuses-accurately-on the state’s plans to replace stenographers in 11 county superior courts with digital audio systems by June 5, 2005. Pro bono is alive and well Jeremy Epstein’s Op-Ed “Restore real commitment” [NLJ, July 12, Page 26] is on target in suggesting that, in strengthening the legal profession’s ethical obligation to pro bono service, it is essential that firm partners-including the firm’s top leadership-visibly demonstrate their personal support for and participation in pro bono service. The Pro Bono Institute (PBI), which promotes, supports and tracks pro bono at major law firms, and-through our sister project, CorporateProBono.Org, in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel, at corporate legal departments-has, since its inception, promoted that critically important construct. PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, a set of aspirational pro bono standards tailored to larger law firms, requires firms to use their best efforts “to ensure that a majority of both partners and associates in the firm participate annually in pro bono activities.” However, his assertion that the pro bono commitment, at least that of major law firms, has slipped is not accurate. The American Lawyer‘s statistics he cites are not on point, since the higher 1993 pro bono numbers were tied to a broader definition of pro bono than those used by that publication currently. Statistics compiled by PBI indicate that, although average pro bono hours at larger law firms slipped in the 1990s, overall pro bono service at larger law firms has increased substantially, most notably, as The American Lawyer‘s statistics indicate, during the past four years, as law firms have enhanced their pro bono support and infrastructure. And PBI’s data also indicate that participation in pro bono by partners has increased significantly as well. Esther F. Lardent Washington The writer is president of PBI.

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