October 7, 2019
The Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Foundation have announced the creation of a first-of-its-kind Illinois task force that will work to identify regulatory reform recommendations to provide enhanced access and more affordable legal services to the public, while also working to make the practice of law more innovative and sustainable for lawyers.
Joining a number of states across the nation examining legal regulatory reforms in response to an ever-changing legal landscape and a growing gap in the ability of citizens to obtain access to justice, the joint CBA/CBF Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation convened its first meeting October 7.
“For all the good we are doing as a profession, we can no longer avoid the fact that our system of justice is not working for the vast majority of people it is designed to serve. And as a profession dedicated to service, we as lawyers need to consider new approaches to fulfill our fundamental mission,” said Task Force Co-Chair and Retired Illinois Appellate Judge Mary Anne Mason. “To accomplish this requires an in-depth examination to modernize the longstanding and outmoded regulations governing our profession that have inhibited lawyers’ ability to expand the availability of their services to large segments of the population that needs them.”
With more than 50 local and national members, the task force will be divided into several committees that will closely examine initiatives that could improve opportunities for lawyers to connect with consumers and practice law in a more sustainable, financially viable and consumer-centric manner, according to Co-Chair E. Lynn Grayson of Nijman Franzetti LLP.
“It is imperative that we identify and embrace legal innovations that have the potential to improve how Illinois lawyers practice law and their ability to better serve their clients and the public,” said Grayson.
“We intend to evaluate technologies, rule modifications and other changes including the possible expansion of legal referral platforms to promote a more viable and sustainable law practice for Illinois attorneys.”
The task force will also work to identify strategies to provide more cost-effective and efficient legal support to the public. This will also include analysis and recommendations to increase access to justice by optimizing the use of other legal professionals and expanding partnerships with online legal services providers and business and technology entities.
Committee work by the task force will focus on the following areas:
- Modernizing lawyer referral and law firm models to open the door to expand opportunities for lawyers to represent clients in an affordable and financially viable manner.
- Optimizing the use of other legal professionals or paraprofessionals to assist clients and provide a variety of legal services such as community legal navigators or limited licensed legal technicians.
- Partnering with online legal service providers and other business and technology entities to make legal forms, documents and self-help resources more readily available to the public.
- Undertaking a critical review and assessment of the ARDC professional rules of responsibility with a focus on a renewed “plain language” approach.
- Assessing whether the limited scope rules for lawyers in Illinois should be expanded beyond civil cases in state court to include misdemeanor, quasi-criminal or federal court cases.
The task force intends to identify and recommend rules changes to the Illinois Supreme Court by the end of the 2019-2020 bar year, according to Mason and Grayson, and beyond that continue to track and assess ongoing legal innovations and initiatives in other states to ensure that Illinois remains at the forefront on reform issues.