Chicana lawyer Luz Herrera was recently profiled as a “Legal Rebel” by the American Bar Association for her insistence on finding ways to support low-cost legal services, and providers.
Showing Thomas Jefferson School of Law students and alumni ways they can charge affordable rates and support themselves continues to be Luz Herrera’s primary passion.
In 2011 the school launched its Small Business Law Center, which pairs lawyer-supervised students with low- and moderate-income individuals who need legal representation. And last year Herrera welcomed the first class of lawyers in the school’s Lawyer Incubator Program. In exchange for $250 a month, participants the school calls “new solos” get office space, mentorship and continuing legal education classes. The program has a full-time director, but Herrera refers to it as “my baby.” “I don’t believe that having a number of attorneys starting their own practices is a new phenomenon,” Herrera says, “but I do think we are just beginning to understand it.”
She’s in a good position to explain that. A former Heller Ehrman associate, in 2002 she started a storefront sole practice in Compton, Calif. A desire to help people, coupled with the knowledge that she’d be the town’s only full-time Spanish-speaking lawyer, helped her make the decision.
Her advice for new solos: “Find out what everybody else is charging and cut it off. It doesn’t make sense for a lawyer to charge $300 an hour for a client who can’t come up with a $10,000 retainer.”
If someone sticks with a sole practice, has good business and marketing plans, low overhead and a defined product, Herrera says, he or she can make $50,000 to $60,000 a year by the second year. That’s more money than contract work, she reasons.
An attorney and a community innovator,
Professor Luz Herrera is pioneering a model to support public spirited, entrepreneurial lawyers in their efforts to launch successful law practices that assist clients and seek to strengthen communities. Her efforts are informed by her service with other organizations that have a pulse on legal service delivery in California and across the United States. She currently serves on the American Bar Association’s Delivery of Legal Services Committee, the board of California Rural Legal Assistance and the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act Implementation Committee.
Professor Herrera recently launched the Small Business Law Center [at Thomas Jefferson Law School in San Diego]. Before entering academia, she ran a solo law practice in Compton, California. She is also the co-founder and board president of Community Lawyers, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides low and moderate-income people access to affordable legal services and develops innovative opportunities for attorneys and law students in underserved communities. CLI facilitates the provision of affordable legal services to underserved communities through community legal education and self-help legal clinics staffed by a network of volunteer attorneys and non-attorney volunteers that support their efforts.
With her invaluable ability to connect with persons at all levels of national leadership and challenge the existing legal services paradigm, Professor Herrera brings innovative ideas to address the access to civil justice gap and calls for the inclusion of all sectors of the profession in a new legal services paradigm. She is leaving her mark in the legal profession and throughout communities nationwide.
(From her bio at Jefferson Law)