A form of institutional and interpersonal racism, people of color are far less likely to obtain legal representation due to these factors, according to Rights on Trial:
Their search for lawyers: inadequate information and networks, a lack of trust in the legal profession, and high cost (including fees for initial assessments). Payment for attorneys falls into three categories:
Contigency fee, paying the bulk only if a client prevails, and contingency fee plus, an upfront fee designed to screen serious clients or an hourly fee added to funds from the award if the case prevails.
Crucial factors to make economic sense: potential damages, which excludes low wage earners given their average annual earnings; potential to win, which often requires smoking gun evidence; minimal work in case of loss.
Hourly fee, guaranteeing payment regardless of outcome.
Crucial factors to make economic sense: clients understanding the unpredictability of recovery; clients with money. It’s a backup...
Those with legal representation (aka money) are most likely to have successful case outcomes. “Plaintiffs who do not have a lawyer [“one in four plaintiffs”] have their cases dismissed at a 40% rate compared to 11% for plaintiffs with lawyers,” say the authors of Rights on Trial. More privileged social groups obtain better results, ironic in an area of law intended to protect disadvantaged groups. Case dismissals often result from plaintiff misunderstandings (read: no education from a lawyer) and can cost plaintiffs court fees. Plaintiffs can also lose on settlement or all counts of summary judgment, when the defendant argues that there is no material issue of fact to be decided on and aggressively sets a deadline.
Settlement is the most common outcome of cases “with an estimated median of $30,000. Plaintiffs win something 60% of the time,” the authors say. Trials are rare and “return a victory for the plaintiff one time in three,”...
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