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.

read more ...

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.

read more ...

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?

read more ...

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.

read more ...

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.

read more ...

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.

read more ...

Put Yourself in Your Own Shoes

When it comes to improving access to justice, one of the most important things we can do as a profession is to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients and potential clients. Looking at things through the lens of our customers opens the door to a myriad of ideas for improving how our profession markets and delivers legal services and revamping the design and operation of the court system. In many ways though, we only need to put ourselves in our own shoes and look in the mirror to see how we can do better.

read more ...

Another Self-Inflicted Barrier to Access to Justice: The Rules Governing Lawyer Marketing and Advertising

Many thousands of Illinoisans who need or would benefit from legal assistance and can afford to pay something aren’t getting it. They often don’t recognize their problem as a legal one, and when they do, they too often don’t know where to go for quality legal help or whether it would be a cost-effective solution for them. At the same time, we have more lawyers than ever before, most of whom have capacity and interest in helping more paying clients. In economics, this is called a market failure, and our profession is compounding this failure by unnecessarily restraining market forces from fixing the problem.

read more ...

Why Do We Maintain an Artificial Barrier to Innovation and Access to Justice?

As I read the news a couple of weeks ago that the Ford Foundation became the latest institution to commit to impact investing (i.e., investing for social impact as well as financial return), it got me thinking about the many exciting possibilities those types of investments could create for access to justice. And then I quickly remembered that this is largely off limits, because our profession clings to outmoded and artificially limiting rules that prevent lawyers from sharing ownership or profits with outside investors. We have enough challenges in our quest to bridge the gulf in access to legal assistance without having to do it with one hand tied behind our collective back, and it is well past time to remove this barrier.

read more ...

The Right Way to Respond to the President’s Budget Proposal: Using Good Baseball Strategy

As you’ve surely heard by now, President Trump’s first budget blueprint released last week targets the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and 18 other agencies for elimination, and calls for significant cuts to a number of other federal agencies and programs that provide vital help for people in need. This is just the start of the budget process and represents both a challenge and a big opportunity for our legal community to respond. We are advocates by trade with a strong hand to play here. We need to call on those skills to remind our members of Congress of the critical role LSC, as the principal funder of civil legal aid at the national level, and other federal access to justice programs play in assuring fairness in the justice system and carrying out one of our nation’s most fundamental responsibilities.

In honor of it being less than two weeks from the Cubs opening game as defending World Series champs (and how cool is it to be able to say that!), I think it is fitting to use a baseball analogy to frame the issue and talk about key points to remember for our legal community’s response.

It’s only the top of the second inning, but the opposing pitcher has knocked our team off its game by calling unusual and often unpredictable pitches and challenging basic notions of sportsmanship. The good news: it is still very early in the game, we’ve got the meat of our batting order coming up, one of our best pitchers on the mound, and a deep and rested bench and bullpen to call upon. While that is all good, it’s going to take a strong game plan to turn those advantages into a win.

read more ...