The Bloomberg Editorial Board looks at the Texas forms brouhaha and comes out in favor of innovations for access:
The Supreme Court of Texas, like courts in dozens of other states and counties, wants to make things easier by providing do-it-yourself petitions, summonses and other forms needed to manage a divorce. Texas family lawyers are fighting back, arguing that the forms may not provide adequate help, that marriages are best dissolved with a lawyer’s advice and assistance.
We have nothing against lawyers. We know and like them. And we do not dispute that they can be extremely helpful in divorce: In situations involving long-married spouses who have children and real property, they’re essential. But judges know that the significant share of marriages are simpler than that. In any case, many people who want divorces can’t afford lawyers’ fees.
Budget cuts in recent years have limited the availability of legal-aid lawyers. They now rarely help people with divorce, except in cases of domestic violence or child abduction.
This is why the Texas court’s solution is sound, and should be taken up by every other jurisdiction that hasn’t already created fill-in-the-blank forms. (Bold added)
. . .
In Texas, the court has signaled its intention to move ahead with self-help forms, despite the lawyers’ objections. We trust both sides will be better off with the new system.
Rather than worry about losing business, many lawyers in other states have learned to take advantage of self- representation by “unbundling” their services. The lawyer agrees to work on a piecemeal basis, handling specific tasks such as drawing up the property settlement or making court appearances. The client does the rest of the paperwork alone.
This business model addresses the reality that many divorcing spouses either don’t want or can’t afford to pay a lawyer a retainer to represent them start to finish. Court- sanctioned do-it-yourself forms make it possible.
This has good quotes on statistics, on unbundling, on self-help and on forms — as well as implicitly on the role of courts in access. Its nice to see national media paying attention to access.