Climate Change Project

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Client-Funded Legal Education

Both physicians and attorneys learn and polish their skills on their clients. In both cases, their clients or patients pay for this education. Physicians amortize the cost over all patients. No individual patient is charged extra because the physician spends an hour reading a journal article about his or her disease. Attorneys, however, charge each client for the time the attorney spends learning about the law governing the client's problem. A surgeon trying a new technique the first time may have an ethical duty to obtain a special informed consent from the patient. Attorneys trying a new area of law not only have no duty to warn the client; they may be paid extra for the additional time needed to research this unfamiliar area.

Attorneys working in an unfamiliar area spend time researching irrelevant issues, miss important issues, and have difficulty in translating legal research into useful legal advice. Once it is accepted that clients should pay for educating senior attorneys, then it is a logical extension to expect clients to pay for educating junior attorneys. Thus, the client's financial advantage of hiring an attorney expert in a particular problem evaporates. The client may get the advantage of the senior attorney's judgment but have to pay junior attorneys to duplicate this knowledge. In the worst case, the client pays the junior attorneys to learn judgment and the senior attorney to supervise their lessons.

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