Updated: Dec. 9, 2017

Overview

In 2015, almost 2 million Washington individuals fell between 200% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (poverty guidelines) and were considered of moderate income. This means that they probably couldn’t afford a full-fee attorney and, yet, did not qualify for free legal aid. The Moderate Means Program (MMP) is a state-wide program designed to bridge this gap with attorneys who offer reduced-fee assistance in family, housing, and consumer law cases. The program is a partnership between the Washington State Bar Association and the law schools of Gonzaga University, Seattle University, and the University of Washington.

The WSBA Board of Governors and private grant funding through the Washington State Bar Foundation support the program.

How it Works

Once a potential client applies, law students, under the supervision of a law school staff attorney, conduct a full intake in preparation for referral. This intake includes income information and details of the case. Law students contact attorneys to place the case. If the attorney agrees to speak with the applicant, the law student provides the attorney’s name and contact information to the applicant. The applicant directly contacts the attorney for an initial consultation. Neither the WSBA nor the law schools will schedule appointments between applicants and attorneys.

Attorneys

Attorneys get free referrals and access to over 35 free trainings  in exchange for reducing their fees. 

How much do I charge?
The participating attorney and client should negotiate and determine the fee for representation. Neither WSBA nor the law schools will be involved in setting, monitoring, or enforcing this negotiation and fee agreement. Any and all fees agreed upon by lawyers and their clients are subject to the requirements of Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5. Lawyers are encouraged to provide written fee agreements to ensure that all parties understand the scope and cost of representation.

We suggest the sliding scale below based on where the client falls within the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The law student will let you know the client’s FPL.

Client income 200–250% of the FPL: reduce fee by 75% 
Client income 250–350% of the FPL: reduce fee by 50% 
Client income 350–400% of the FPL: reduce fee by 25% 

What are the Eligibility Requirements?
Attorneys must be an active WSBA attorney in good standing and carry malpractice insurance.

I don’t practice in family,  housing or consumer law; can I still participate?
Yes! We have a list of available mentors.

How many referrals will I get?
The number of referrals you get depends on how many, the location and type of cases we get. To maximize your chances of getting a referral, sign up outside your primary county of practice and in all three legal areas. King and Spokane counties have the highest amount of attorneys, while rural areas have very few. Spanish-speaking attorneys are always in high demand.

For more information, please review this manual or contact publicservice@wsba.org.

Clients

For more information on eligibility requirements and applying for legal services through the program, please visit ModerateMeansWA.org.

Law Students

The Moderate Means Program is a way to gain valuable experience interviewing clients and applying classroom topics to real life. To find out more about getting involved, please contact Clay Wilson at SU and UW (wilsoncl@seattleu.edu) or Julie Schaffer at GU (schaffer@gonzaga.edu).