October 25, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Legal work is free, results are priceless

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

“Sixty days before trial, I have to submit all my documents, translations of all documents, statements from all my witnesses, statements from all my experts, and every piece of paper I can find that has anything to do with anything,” Montgomery said. “The obligation of the government is to do nothing. There’s no (pre-trial) discovery. It’s like three days of anticipating every curveball they could throw at you.”

Then there are the interviews with immigration officials, the appeals when things don’t go your way (which, at one point, they didn’t), the constant search for experts who are willing to donate their time ...

Long story short, Montgomery so far has succeeded in winning asylum for the children. But the mother and father, both of whom work full time while their kids thrive in school, remain in legal limbo pending yet another court appearance next summer.

“I lay awake some nights worrying about it,” Montgomery said.

What he doesn’t worry about are the fees he’d be pulling down – upward of $200,000 and counting – if this were a fee-for-service case.

Unheard of, you say?

Not by a long shot.

“I wouldn’t want someone to read this and think, ‘Oh, Jack Montgomery’s the only person doing this,’ ” he said. “This is just one of scores – big firms, small firms. There are a lot of people on that list.”

Indeed. According to Sanders, the 142 attorneys being honored this month at ceremonies all over Maine include one “retired” lawyer who has racked up 1,500 hours of pro bono work over each of the past two years. Other annual logs, Montgomery’s included, run well into the hundreds of hours.

“There are some people for whom this is the most gratifying work they do,” Sanders said. “It’s so important for litigants to have the benefit of legal counsel as they move through the system. Everyone benefits when parties are represented.”

So go ahead and crack a lawyer joke if you must. But keep in mind, as Montgomery notes, that for every barrister out there who deserves to “live under that cloud of public perception,” there are many, many more who don’t.

Back when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court created the Katahdin Counsel Recognition Program in 2012, it included a list of frequently asked questions on the program’s website.

Asks one question: “Is participation in the Katahdin Recognition Program mandatory?”

“No,” reads the reply, “participation in the program is purely voluntary.”

The next question, this being a site for lawyers and all, asks, “What happens if I choose not to participate in the Katahdin Counsel Recognition Program?”

The reply: “Nothing.”

Precisely.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

Twitter: @billnemitz

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