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New Law Firm Aims To Help Clients Of Modest Means

Legal help can be expensive, but a new law firm in Pittsburgh has a mission of serving clients of modest means.

Fair Shake, an environmental legal service located on Butler St., had its grand opening Thursday.

The firm provides legal services to the tri-state area for issues such as community health, environmental protection and cleanup and development.

Emily Collins, the executive director, said she got the idea for the firm when she was a clinical assistant professor with the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

She said that the clinic started tracking how many people they served, and their findings surprised them.

“It turned out that we were only serving about ten percent of the people who actually called us, and that was without any kind of real presence, it’s not like we were doing any marketing at the clinic, so people only knew about us through word of mouth,” Collins said. “So it’s the need, that’s why we’re doing this.” 

Collins said it also has the nation’s first environmental legal services residency program.

“I think it’s important because we’re finally bringing together the need of clients who are of modest means and of young lawyers who would like to serve this client base but are often pigeon-holed into the existing business models out there,” Collins said.

She said the business model that Fair Shake is using considers the income of the client.

“You know, how close or far away - I suppose I should say - someone’s income is from the federal poverty rate is what allows us to come up with a system of discounts for folks depending on their household size and their household income,” Collins said.

She said they have also decided to reduce their base rates.

But Collins said that given the nature of the firm, sustainability is still a concern.

“One of the things that we need to spend time with our resident attorneys on is making sure that they all have kind of a separate practice that they can fall back on in times of need,” Collins said. “So sometimes people will practice defense and do that kind of thing.”

The firm also plans to open an office in Akron, Ohio.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.
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