Make Law Better by Looking Outside Law—Retail and Travel Edition

With the holiday season just behind us, one thing we all did recently was buy things—often lots of things—and many of us took a year-end trip as well. So it seemed only natural to start my 2020 Resolution for the Legal Profession series by focusing on what we can learn from the retail and travel industries.

Like the Uber/taxi analogy I have explored previously, there obviously are big differences in law compared to retail and travel. But there are overarching trends in those industries we ignore at our peril. Chief among them are the way they are shaping consumer expectations and the important lessons for how we can better connect to clients and deliver our services.

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2020 Resolution—Make Law Better by Looking Outside Law

One of the common traits of our legal profession is to view
ourselves as unique in the world. And that is certainly true to an extent, as the
practice of law involves specialized expertise and services that good lawyers
are distinctively able to provide.

But we are not as unique as we think we are, particularly when it comes to the business of law and the way we deliver our services. For that reason, my Fourth Annual New Year’s Resolution for our Profession is to break out of our legal bubble. There is much we can learn from other professions and industries to improve both the practice of law and access to justice.

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Build It and They Might Not Come

Since the days of yore, our courts and larger legal system
have centered around a “build it and they will come” model that requires people
to come to us on our terms. If you have a dispute, come downtown to the courthouse
and they’ll take care of it. And if you have a legal problem, come see one of
the many good lawyers out there and you’ll be all set.

This model worked pretty well for literally centuries, and the more centralized system of justice still has an important place in our modern world. But the growing reality today is that most people the system is designed to serve don’t know about, don’t trust, or do not feel connected to our traditional justice system. Finding better ways to connect people in their own communities with legal help and access to the legal process is an increasingly critical part of ensuring equal access to justice going forward.

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What if I told you…?

…there was a magic potion that will give you a happier, healthier and longer life. Who wouldn’t want that?

Well, it turns out that potion indeed does exist, and all of us who are lawyers and legal professionals can easily take advantage of it. And no magic is required. So, what is it?

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MEGservationsGood for Everyone: Pro Bono and Veggies Go Mainstream

By Margaret Benson | Executive Director, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services

Pro bono is like veganism. Although it’s good for you and benefits society, people have been skeptical. But now both practices are popular enough that even people who don’t do them claim they do.

It wasn’t always that way. Back in the stone ages of the legal profession, before email, business processes and data analytics, many law firms didn’t have much interest in providing direct legal services to low-income clients. While some handled pro bono law reform cases through organizations like the ACLU and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, most firms didn’t think their attorneys should handle direct legal services for poor people.

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Voluntary Bar Associations and Adapting to a Changing World

Bob Glaves is my friend and mentor. So, while skeptical, I grant him the benefit of the doubt when he tells me that the Bobservations readership numbers millions, spanning continents. “Huge and fabulous and, many people are saying, the best ever,” Bob observes of Bobservations.

In any event Bob’s taking a well-deserved break. He’s asked me to contribute a post. Presently, I believe Bob is traipsing about the Wisconsin woodlands. I hope he’s relaxed of mind and surely not reliving the double-doink, ad nauseam.

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What’s Your Story?

When someone asks us what we do as lawyers and legal professionals, what story do we tell them? Do we frame the answer in the loftier ideals of our profession and the good we do in the world, or in the day-to-day grind that the practice of law sometimes can feel like?

That question was the driving force behind the selection of this year’s theme song at the CBA and CBF’s 21st Annual Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon last week, The Story by Brandi Carlile.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?

Jim Harbaugh came through town last week, but not on a recruiting trip for Michigan. He was here in his role as a member of the Leaders Council for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), where he joined in a fitting tribute to LSC’s board chair and long-time champion for the cause, John Levi.

In the course of his heartfelt toast to Levi, Coach Harbaugh used a football analogy to illustrate what it means when someone has to fend for themselves in a contested court case: it is like a game where one team has to play without helmets and pads. You don’t have to stretch your imagination to recognize that team would get routed and end up with some serious injuries.

I thought this was a great analogy that most everyday Americans can connect to and understand, and it also offers an interesting framework for tackling the broader barriers to equal access to justice.

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The Affordability Action Plan

Over the course of the past several months, I’ve used this blog to discuss four big issues our legal profession needs to address to carry out my 2019 Resolution: to tackle our affordability problem for everyday people. The common denominator on these issues is that the solutions to making legal services more affordable and accessible to the middle class are almost entirely within our power as a profession and court system. 

To paraphrase a famous saying, we have met the enemy, and it is us. The following, interconnected action plan can help us defeat that enemy and strike a major blow for access to justice in the process.

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What Do Courts Have to Do with the Affordability of Legal Services?

Quite a lot, as a matter of fact. The fundamental mission of the courts is to deliver justice for all by protecting rights and liberties, upholding the rule of law, and serving as fair and neutral arbiters to resolve disputes. Promoting affordable legal representation is a central part of fulfilling that mission, yet some of the key steps to doing so are too often overlooked by courts today.

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