"Where else can you get legal advice for $20? If you go to a lawyer, he'll charge you $150 an hour."
That's what one participant said last spring after attending the second annual Citizens Law School, a six-week course sponsored by the Beverly Hills Bar Assn.
Actually, there are a few places you can get a better deal, but not many indigent clients can obtain Legal Aid services at no cost, and Telelawyer, a 900 lawyer information line ((900) 446-4529) provides advice for $3 a minute. But after a few minutes, you would nearly have paid the cost of the classes.
"The courts are an integral function of our government, with what more or less amounts to a monopoly on dispensing justice," said David Shacter, the president of the Beverly Hills Bar Assn., in a prepared statement.
"Enhancing the public's understanding of the court system is essential and a prime goal of the Citizens Law School," added Shacter, who will teach "How the Courts Operate" the first night. "Those who attend will have their curiosity aroused and their questions answered," he promised.
For $20, here is what you get: a six-week course, offered every Wednesday evening, taught by practicing lawyers; an opportunity to ask questions about law and meet other people with similar interests; a chance to meet and talk with lawyers who are experts in their fields. Unlike schools we all remember, you do not have to pass an exam, and nobody gives you a grade. Of course, you can, if you prefer, grade yourself on your legal knowledge and the lawyers who lead the discussions.
Everything is supposed to be discussed in plain English, although you may hear phrases like "surrogate parenting," "tax basis," "dissolution," "cumus counsel in insurance cases" and other legalisms. These and other expressions will be explained so that you can understand what is going on and how it might affect you.
The classes will meet at Westwood United Methodist Church, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., starting Oct. 9. The subjects include:
* Family law, the good times and the bad.
* Your insurance and whether you and your family are really in good hands.
* Consumer rights.
* Landlord-tenant relations and buying and selling a residence.
* How criminal law affects you and your family.
* The elderly and the intricacies of estate planning.
For information, brochures and registration, contact Barbara Avis at (213) 553-6644 or write to the Citizens Law School, Beverly Hills Bar Assn., 300 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90212.
And if this school is too far away for you to attend, urge your local bar association to start a similar program soon.