Notice: No legal services are being provided or offered by Access Justice at this time.
If and when AJ resumes its operations, public notice will be provided on this website. Read Full Notice

What is Pro Se Legal Representation?

A lot of low income individuals and ordinary people, given the enormous hourly rates of private law firms,  are interested in representing themselves in court. However, the legal world can be incredibly complicated, which is one of the reasons why lawyers exist. There is a seemingly infinite amount paperwork, filings, deadlines, and then court itself. It is a difficult system to operate within without legal representation, but many people are forced to go at it alone.


Representing oneself is often referred to as being pro se.  Defined:

pro se (proh say). Latin for “for himself.” A party to a lawsuit who represents himself (acting in propria persona), is appearing in the case “pro se.”
Free Legal Dictionary


The United States’ state and federal court systems are currently experiencing an increasing number of pro se litigants. For example, according to the National Center for State Courts, in a 2006 report, estimates the pro se rate for family law cases in particular at:  67% in California; 73% in Florida’s large counties; and 70% in some Wisconsin counties.



Access Justice currently offers low bono services for eligible individuals who fall within the Federal Poverty Guidelines. See our Eligibility Guidelines for more information. In the future though, Access Justice would like to take part in and assist individuals with educational workshops,  meetings, and information sessions on how to best operate pro se, encouraging and facilitating low income individuals who would like to represent themselves in court.


As a first step, we would recommend people interested in being pro se to look at the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s website, namely the MN Courts’ Self Help Page, which is an interactive website page that includes “how to” guides, worksheets, and videos, as well various samples forms pertaining to court fillings and applications. Eventually, we hope to actively engage individuals in this process, and assist them in operating pro se and representing themselves.


Questioning the Billable Hour

Most top grossing law firms use a billable-hour system in order to charge clients. However, it is a flawed system with exorbitant rates that pressure and take advantage of clients. It also virtually eliminates access to the legal system for low-income individuals. Working class people cannot afford to pay the average $500 per hour for a junior associate’s legal work.  Access justice would like to see a change in this system.


A Washington Post article states:

In the first quarter of 2013, the 50 top-grossing U.S. law firms boosted their partner rates by as much as 5.7%, billing on average between $879 and $882 an hour, according to Valeo Partners. Rates for junior lawyers, whose labors have long been a profit engine for major law firms, jumped even more….This year, for the first time, the average rate for associates with one to four years of experience rose to $500 an hour, according to Valeo.
For full article: On Sale: The $1,150-Per-Hour Lawyer

These numbers are based on the legal-spending data from more than 17,000 law firms. Clearly, attorneys’ hourly rates are skyrocketing. But why?


A New York Times OP-ED article states:

The billable-hour system is the way most lawyers in big firms charge clients, but it serves no one. Well, almost no one. It brings most equity partners in those firms great wealth. Law firm leaders call it a leveraged pyramid. Moss associates call it a living hell…. For clients, the consequences of a billable-hour system can be absurd…. Why do clients tolerate this perverse system? Periodically they rebel, especially during economic downturns, but those revolutions are short-lived and unsuccessful.
For full article: The Tyranny of the Billable Hour

Access Justice would like to see one of these revolutions succeed. What information are we left with though? The billable-hour system is “seriously flawed.” And attorneys’ hourly rates have increased and currently range from around $500 to over $1,000 (on average).


Let’s now contrast the above content with Access Justice: AJ offers low bono legal services that are never more than $99 per hour. Never.



Wanted: Pro Bono Attorneys

The Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys touches on one area in particular that Access Justice is committed to: public service.


MN Rule 6.1 encourages lawyers in the state to voluntarily provide pro bono services. Namely, it states that:

Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year”

The Rules also (primarily) provide that these services should be provided to persons with limited means. The Rules also touch on lawyers providing services regarding the protection of civil rights and participating in activities in order to improve the legal system.

In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

The ABA House of Delegates has formally acknowledged “the basic responsibility of each lawyer engaged in the practice of law to provide public interest legal services” without fee, or at a substantially reduced fee, in one or more of the following areas: poverty law, civil rights law, public rights law, charitable organization representation and the administration of justice.

Access Justice provides quality and affordable legal services to persons with limited means. In order to provide such services, however, AJ needs skilled attorneys– both staff and volunteer. Thus, Access Justice encourages any attorneys to contact our offices, if they are interested in a position as a staff attorney, volunteer attorney, or if they are interested in simply donating to our organization (pursuant to Minnesota’s Rules of Professional Conduct).

Expanding Access Justice

Access Justice is reaching out to working class groups within the community.


We hope to continue to expand our organization in order to provide more quality and affordable legal
services for ordinary, working class people. Most recently, Access Justice promoted its legal services
in Minneapolis Labor Review. It’s encouraging to receive such positive feedback from the legal


Thank you for your continued support. And we promise, Access Justice will continue to champion for
quality and affordable legal services.


For more information about our post in Minneapolis Labor Review, please visit: Minneapolis Unions,
their February 22, 2013 issue, or visit the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation’s Facebook page.


heartWhat our supporters have to say...

This courageous effort is just what the doctor ordered.- - The Honorable Lawrence D. Cohen
Through our work with you, people in the Somali community will be able to get real legal assistance… There is no other firm like AJ.- - Dahir Mirreh Jibreel, Executive Director, Somalia Justice Advocacy Center
We help clients protect what is rightfully theirs and achieve their goals at minimal cost.- - Elizabeth, Access Justice Volunteer Attorney
You have launched a law firm that has long been needed!- - Deborah Randolph, Retired Minnesota Attorney
You seem to be attempting something I've been thinking (maybe dreaming) about for many years.- - Bob Seng, Assistant General Counsel, Target Corporation
This legal service model is desperately needed. - - Betsy Sitkoff, J-CHAI Coordinator, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Quick contact


Access Justice, PSC
310 4th Avenue S Suite 1006
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone: 612.879.8092
Toll Free: 1.877.999.AJ OK (2565)
Fax: 612.879.8707

Nothing on this site constitutes legal advice and this site does not create an attorney-client relationship or make any assertion regarding available attorneys in your jurisdiction.
See our Representation Policy.

Access Justice is proud to announce that we are a member of the Charities Review Council's Smart Giving Network. Charities Review Council Letter and Seal.

About company

Access Justice is a nonprofit, full service public interest law firm committed to providing quality, affordable (or free) legal services to low- and moderate-income persons who have no access to our legal system.

Access Justice is a Minnesota Professional Services Corporation operating under the trade name “Access Justice.” An attorney-client relationship with Access Justice will only be created upon the signing of a formal representation agreement between Access Justice and a client.

Access Justice is a tax-exempt public charity under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. All donations to AJ are tax deductible. Donate.

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