A Banned Words List for Access to Justice

Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard a heavier than usual dose of words and phrases that are common in the access to justice world but really need to go. As a result, this month I am taking a break from pontificating about the future to advocate for the start of a banned words list for our legal profession. Think of it like spring cleaning now that we are finally seeing spring around here.

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A Fool for a Client?

“A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Most of us have heard that old adage, and while we’ve thankfully come a long way from those days when the assumption was the lawyer would be a “him,” we’ve also reached a point where advances in technology and the growing gap in access to free and affordable legal services require us to revisit the underlying premise.

When do we really need a lawyer to get a just result? Or put another way, when are we fools to try to go it alone (assuming we even have a choice)? Not to be overdramatic, but there is not a more critical question today for access to justice and the future of our profession.

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Top Ten Reasons the Billable Hour Needs to Go

The billable hour continues to be a significant and self-inflicted barrier to access to justice. Whatever its merits may be in the corporate market, for low and moderate-income individuals and small businesses the billable hour makes legal services less affordable and accessible because it lacks transparency and certainty and misaligns incentives for efficiency, innovation, and value.

Albert Einstein said “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend the first 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes finding the solution.” Here are my top 10 reasons the billable hour is a problem for access to justice.

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A Bittersweet End, A Solid Model for the Future

In the ongoing budget saga for the Cook County government, one of the unfortunate casualties has been the Circuit Court Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program, which officially ended in December when its funding was not renewed.

While there is no doubt the current budget challenges facing the County in the aftermath of its recent “soda tax” debacle are real, eliminating this successful program is a shortsighted move that will end up costing the County much more than it would to fund the program at its prior 2017 level. As we continue to evaluate whether there are other potential County funding options to restart the program, looking back on what made the program most effective over the past 7+ years offers a good model for developing effective court-based programs going forward.

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2018 New Year’s Resolution for the Legal Profession: Make it a Priority to Incorporate Technology Into Our Work, but Set Clearer Boundaries

Last year at this time, you may remember my new year’s resolution for our profession was to stop calling people non-lawyers, which sadly continues to be a problem and needs to carry forward as a 2018 resolution.

My new resolution for next year is that we as a profession make it a priority to catch up to the rest of the world in the way we use technology. But it comes with a critical corollary: wherever we are on the spectrum of technology adoption, we need to set much clearer boundaries so that technology doesn’t so overwhelm our lives that we lose what makes us uniquely valuable as professionals and people.

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People Remember How You Made Them Feel, Part 2 – The Courts

In my September post, I used a famous Maya Angelou quote as food for thought on how lawyers can better serve their clients: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That quote could be a downright call to action in the context of the courts and how people without lawyers experience the current system.

To put it mildly, we can do a lot better. And this is no academic exercise—it’s critical to the future of access to justice.

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A Ticket to a Successful and Fulfilling Legal Career

In the toolbox of strategies for making your legal career an accomplished and fulfilling one, there is one tool that is often overlooked and almost always underrated: pro bono. While pro bono should be an integral part of your practice for many fundamental reasons, an added bonus is that it also helps ensure long term success and satisfaction in your career.

So how can doing pro bono work help you advance your career and find fulfillment in our fast changing profession?

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People Remember How You Made Them Feel

Maya Angelou was the source of a lot of wisdom over the course of her amazing life and career, exemplified by one of her most famous quotes: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” These words should be a guiding principle for all of us connected to law and the legal profession as we strive to improve access to justice in an age of increasingly rapid technological change.

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Put Yourself in Your Own Shoes—Part 2 (Where I Answer My Own Questions)

In my June post, I suggested we should look at our profession and the market for legal services by putting ourselves in our own shoes when we look for other professional services. So what does that look like? I raised the questions in June. Now I’ll give my best shot at answering them.

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Stand Up for Justice

As we got ready to honor eight truly outstanding lawyers at this year’s CBA and CBF’s Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon, I found some inspiration for my closing remarks while watching Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, where they once again took a break in the middle of the game for Stand up to Cancer.

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