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 ...

Immigration and Access to Justice: A Much Bigger Problem Than It Needs to Be

People come to America for the same basic reasons now as they have from the time of our nation’s founding: to seek economic opportunity and the American dream, to join their families, or to flee persecution or terror. We truly are a nation of immigrants, and from the start of our country to today, immigrants have played integral roles in our economy and in our communities.

Even if we had a well thought out and well-functioning immigration system that reflects these fundamental truths—which no rational observer would mistake our current system for—immigrants would have some unique needs for legal help, and many would also face additional challenges due to the language and cultural barriers they often confront.* Unfortunately, however, immigrants face far greater access to justice challenges today because we have a broken immigration system. These added challenges are unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive for all concerned, and expanding immigration enforcement without fixing the underlying systemic flaws will only make things worse.

read more ...

Our Language Problem

If You See Something, Do Something!

As lawyers trained to worship at the altar of precedent, there are all kinds of bad habits we can pick up without even thinking about them. There of course are many legal principles we continue to follow today because they are critical underpinnings of our society that rightly have stood the test of time—the rule of law and the fundamentals of our Constitution, for example. There unfortunately also is a lot of legal terminology and procedure that we continue to use today for a very different reason: because it is just the way we always have done it. And breaking out of that default pattern is one of the easiest steps we all can take right now to improve access to justice.

I got a great lesson on this early in my legal career.

read more ...