Spread Your Wings and Fly with “FLAP”
Introducing the New Federal Limited Appearance Program
If you’re reading this article, it’s probably safe to assume you enjoy helping others solve problems. If that’s true, consider getting involved in the new Federal Limited Appearance Program (FLAP). By working with FLAP, you’ll not only assist citizens in need, but also gain valuable skills and “stand-up” experience in federal court.
“America’s courts are built on a system of rules and procedures that assume that almost everyone who comes to court has a lawyer.”1 But the average Coloradan—who in 2018 made $26.84 per hour2—cannot come close to paying an attorney his or her average fee of $200 to $300 per hour.3
As a result, many people try to solve their civil legal problems on their own, as pro se litigants. In 2017, “86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help.”4 And the problem isn’t isolated to those struggling to make ends meet; it affects most middle-class Americans.5
Indeed, 70% to 98% of cases in American civil courts involve at least one pro se litigant.6 Unfortunately, appearing pro se poses challenges to the litigant (and the litigant’s adversary), and creates inefficiencies for the court.7 At the same time, lawyers find themselves with fewer opportunities to appear in court. That is particularly true for young lawyers in civil practice.8
Tackling this issue requires a multifaceted approach that includes the provision of pro bono legal representation for entire civil actions, as well as various forms of limited representation (also known as unbundled legal services).9 The US District Court for the District of Colorado (Court) and the Colorado Bar Association are, in many ways, at the forefront of those efforts.
In 2014, the Court implemented the Civil Pro Bono Panel, which coordinates pro bono representation in entire actions.10 In 2016, the Court revised its Local Rules to broaden the scope of unbundled legal services.11 And in 2019, the Court, with assistance from the CBA, established the Federal Pro Se Clinic, which provides pro se litigants free assistance, on a limited-scope basis, with out-of-court case strategy, filing preparation, and navigation of the legal process.12 But there are still gaps to fill. With your help, FLAP can fill one of those gaps.
What is FLAP?
FLAP is a volunteer-driven program developed by the Court and the CBA Young Lawyers Division, in coordination with the existing Federal Pro Bono Panel and the Faculty of Federal Advocates. It’s designed to bridge the gap between the limited-scope, out-of-court services provided by the Federal Pro Se Clinic and the full-scope pro bono representation facilitated by the Civil Pro Bono Panel.
Specifically, FLAP aims to address the difficulty pro se parties in civil litigation face in dealing with procedural and other non-dispositive issues in “real time” during a court appearance. The program provides those litigants with limited representation by a volunteer attorney before, during, and/or immediately after scheduled appearances, including scheduling conferences, status conferences, discovery conferences, and other non-dispositive hearings, as well as final pretrial conferences.
Who Should Participate?
Every lawyer who is admitted to practice in the US District Court for the District of Colorado should consider participating in FLAP, especially those who lack the time or resources to take on an entire action on a pro bono basis and those looking for unique volunteer opportunities. FLAP is also ideal for young lawyers who want to sharpen their skills. In fact, the program was created with an eye toward helping young attorneys get into the courtroom early and often.
The Nuts and Bolts
The Court does not fund FLAP or appoint volunteers to assist parties. Rather, the CBA identifies the need for, and coordinates the availability of, volunteer attorneys. Pro se litigants may engage a volunteer attorney at a court appearance using form agreements and conflict check information that the volunteer is provided before the court appearance.
The forms clarify that volunteer services are not provided on an “ongoing” basis; instead, provision of such services is limited to the brief time period associated with each court appearance. In addition, the CBA provides volunteers with form motions and proposed orders that comply with the Court’s rules for limited-scope representation.13 And all FLAP volunteers are covered by the existing professional malpractice insurance policy for the Civil Pro Bono Program.
How Do I Get Involved?
FLAP offers a “trifecta” of opportunities for attorneys: it enables them to serve others in need, assist the court, and further their own careers. If you or your firm would like to participate in FLAP, please contact Jess Ham, firstname.lastname@example.org, to sign up for remote orientation today.
1 . Broderick and George, “A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers,” N.Y. Times (Jan. 1, 2010), https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/02/opinion/02broderick.html.
2 . Colo. Dep’t of Labor and Emp’t, Colorado Occupational Employment and Wages—2018 (Apr. 9, 2019), https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/news/colorado-occupational-employment-and-wages-2018.
3 . CBA, 2017 Economics of Law Practice Survey (2017), http://www.cobar.org/portals/COBAR/repository/2017EconomicSurvey.pdf.
4 . Legal Services Corp., The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Needs of Low-Income Americans (June 2017), https://www.lsc.gov/sites/default/files/images/TheJusticeGap-FullReport.pdf.
5 . Bergmark, “We don’t need fewer lawyers. We need cheaper ones,” Wash. Post (June 2, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/06/02/we-dont-need-fewer-lawyers-we-need-cheaper-ones.
6 . Id.
7 . Luban, “Self-Representation, Access to Justice, and the Quality of Counsel: A Comment on Rabeea Assy’s Injustice in Person: the Right of Self-Representation, Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies” (2018), https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/2020.
8 . Randazzo, “More Junior Lawyers Would Please Courts: Some judges urge wider courtroom opportunities to help develop young attorneys,” Wall Street J. (Sept. 25, 2016), https://www.wsj.com/articles/more-junior-lawyers-would-please-courts-1474843400.
9 . Broderick and George, supra note 1.
10 . US Dist. Court for the Dist. of Colo., Civil Pro Bono Panel—Information for Unrepresented Parties, http://www.cod.uscourts.gov/RepresentingYourself/CivilProBonoPanel.aspx.
11 . US Dist. Court for the Dist. of Colo., Limited Representation, http://www.cod.uscourts.gov/RepresentingYourself/LimitedRepresentation.aspx.
12 . CBA, Colorado Federal Pro Se Clinic, https://www.cobar.org/fpsc.
13 . See D.C.COLO.LAttyR 2(b), 5(a)–(b) (Dec. 1, 2017).
Research shows that when mentors are actively engaged with mentees, those mentees form stronger emotional bonds to an organization, report higher job satisfaction, and perceive greater support from an organization broadly.
FLAP is ideal for:
- young lawyers looking to get into the courtroom more often
- attorneys of all levels of experience looking for less time-intensive ways to give back
- attorneys who want to help those in need and improve access to justice
- attorneys in search of a unique volunteer experience
- attorneys who want to sharpen their legal skills