Carolyn Elefant at My Shingle wonders, "What if lawyers could subsidize the out of pocket cost of briefs and even the legal fees with paid advertising from sponsors who support the clients’ cause?":
As a lawyer who frequently handles appeals before federal circuit courts, it’s discouraging for me to tell clients that they may have to shell out anywhere from two to four thousand dollars simply to cover the cost of preparing eight bound copies of an initial and reply brief, along with eight copies of joint appendix that depending on the size of the record, could amount to 1500-2000 pages. These out-of-pocket costs alone are often scary enough to deter clients from even thinking about appeals — which is unfortunate since in many situations, the legal work itself isn’t all that complicated either because the appeal can be limited to a discrete issue or because many of the issues were already thoroughly researched and argued in the proceedings below. In fact, I’d guess that many lawyers – myself included – might be willing to take on an
appeal that involves a juicy issue on a partial contingency or even pro bono basis so long as we weren’t on the hook for the rather considerable out of pocket costs as well.
So I got to thinking – what if lawyers could subsidize the out of pocket cost of briefs and even the legal fees with paid advertising from sponsors who support the clients’ cause? With legal briefs now widely posted online by lawyers at numerous courts and agencies
(where they are often linked to by the press or bloggers)not to mention more social sites like JD Supra, a sponsor could at once generate good visibility online and good will from its customers.
I know it sounds crazy (even my ordinarily taciturn husband derided the concept cheesy), but let me make my case to the court of public opinion. First – would there be a market for sponsorship of briefs? I think so. Many briefs at the appellate and Supreme Court level deal with broad policy issues – privacy, data protection, copyright , defamation in an internet age and more – that are important to companies and their customers. Sponsorship would give companies an opportunity to show that they support a particular position. Likewise, cases involving zoning issues or eminent domain or local curfews or tax laws may not capture national attention, but matter within a community – thus making the briefs of interest to local businesses. And while many times companies do weigh in on these issues by filing amicus briefs, it’s far less expensive to sponsor a brief than to go through the trouble of preparing one.
Elefant goes on to note some practical and ethical considerations (read the whole thing -- it's not long). I'll be checking back to My Shingle for the comments as they come it.
HT: ABA Journal