Modest Means Program (MMP) Law and Legal Definition
Modest means program (MMP) is designed for people who have some ability to pay for a lawyer, but who cannot afford the standard cost of a private lawyer’s services. Too many people cannot afford the full price of the legal services they need, yet they can afford to pay something less. Modest means attorneys are private attorneys with regular caseloads who agree to perform services at a reduced fee for a limited number of clients. State Bar members who volunteer to join the modest means panel agree to provide services at reduced cost to moderate income clients. They offer alternative payment arrangements such as a reduced hourly rate and/or a lower than normal advance of fees. In order to be eligible for the program, the clients must meet specific income and asset guidelines. Clients are matched with attorneys who can assist them at substantially reduced rates.
Modest means program go by various names, such as "reduced fee panel," "middle income program," and "alternative payment panel. While some programs provide modest means services for a wide range of legal fields, others focus on a few areas such as bankruptcy, housing, criminal defense and will drafting. Some modest means programs are available in only one or two areas, most commonly family law. Generally, any case that may result in a person suing for a monetary award or damages is not eligible for a reduced fee referral (personal injury, medical malpractice, etc).
Usually State bar associations maintain a list of lawyers who have agreed to reduce what they charge for prescreened referrals through this modest means program. Each association has specific rules regarding the program.
For example, Oregon lawyers created the Modest Means Program (MMP)to help moderate-income Oregonians find affordable legal assistance. The Referral & Information Services (RIS) Administrator is responsible for the operation of the program and shall develop and revise referral procedures for the same. To be eligible, applicant income must be less than or equal to at least one current eligibility tier of the MMP. Tiers are based upon set percentages of the current Federal Poverty Guidelines, with allowable adjustments based on guidelines of the Legal Services Corporation. Attorneys’ fee levels shall be set to correspond with the Tiers, after giving due consideration to the most recent edition of the Oregon State Bar Economic Survey and common billing practices for each area of law addressed by the MMP. In Oregon an attorney in order to be eligible must be in private practice; be an active member of the Oregon State Bar who is in good standing; maintain malpractice coverage with the Professional Liability Fund; and have no disciplinary proceedings pending.
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