Monday morning’s email included a notice from Massachusetts Bar Association Chief Legal Counsel, Martin W. Healy (via the Norfolk Bar Association), that next week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives will take up MBA’s proposed legislation to increase the hourly rate paid to court appointed counsel in Child In Need of Services cases to $55 per hour, and for Family Law and Care and Protection cases to $60 per hour. The long-standing and present rate is $50.
Looking at the situation on the glass-half-full side, those are 10% and 20% increases, respectively. Not bad in a virtual no-inflation economy.
On the other hand, what kind of a society are we?
This news caused us to reflect on the fact that when one of us entered private practice of family law, his hourly associate billing rate was also $55 per hour. So where’s the beef? That was 1981. And, it was roughly half of the rate charged for seasoned practitioners in the practice.
Can it be that in 2015, the representation of children and indigents in the most profound child delinquency, abuse and neglect and custody cases, is not yet valued as highly as the lowest lawyer in a private family law firm of 34 years ago, a period over which the cost of living has increased nearly 2 ½ times?
We know that there is a difference between privately contracted legal relationships and taxpayer paid appointments. But the constitutional ramifications in state intervention cases are far greater than in family law matters generally; and for the children involved, these cases cast a lifetime shadow, good or bad.
Please support this bill. It is the least we all can do.