News Tag: Future of the Profession


September 13, 2017

New Limited Scope Representation Toolkit a Great Resource for Lawyers to Expand Their Practice and Improve Access to Justice

A new Limited Scope Representation Toolkit released by the CBF and others is a practical resource for Illinois lawyers seeking to expand or add limited scope representation as one of their service offerings. A number of recent reports have shown there is a huge untapped demand for limited scope representation, and expanding the availability of these services can go a long way towards improving access to justice in our community.

The CBF and our Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP) developed the toolkit in partnership with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, The Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, and The Chicago Bar Association. The resources in this toolkit—including rules, forms, checklists, and a sample engagement letter—are intended to assist attorneys in understanding the limited scope rules and using them in an ethical and effective manner to make their services more accessible and affordable for clients who might not otherwise be able to afford full representation.

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August 24, 2017

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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June 27, 2017

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.

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May 25, 2017

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.

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April 25, 2017

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.

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December 20, 2016

A New Year’s Resolution for the Legal Profession: Stop Calling People Non-lawyers!

Every once in a while I will read an article or hear a speech that causes me to recognize I’ve been acting like a fool in one way or another. And I am certain I have many more opportunities ahead of me for that kind of recognition. A great example of this phenomenon occurred for me not long ago when I heard Jordan Furlong, a very perceptive analyst of the legal market and the future of our profession, note that we are the only profession who describes everyone who is not one of us as a “non.”

He’s right. You don’t hear doctors calling everyone else in the medical field “non-doctors,” or CPAs calling their colleagues “non-CPAs.” In fact, it sounds absurd to even imagine them or any other professionals doing that. Yet that’s exactly what we do as lawyers, and I have certainly been guilty of my share of it over the years.

While I have no idea how we got started using the non-lawyer expression, and I don’t think it is something lawyers do with any ill will, it is pretty offensive when you think about it. And it betrays a shortsighted and artificially limiting mindset that has a number of negative consequences for access to justice, the future of our profession, and our public image as lawyers.

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September 29, 2016

The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

The legendary Yogi Berra was the source of so many great quotes that they became the source for a whole book, and his quote about the future is a very fitting title for my concluding post in the “legal future” series I kicked off back in January.

When it comes to the legal profession and access to justice, the future surely does look a lot different than it would have even a few years ago, and that is largely a good thing. While many of us face new professional challenges today that were not present ten years ago, we all have promising opportunities that could fundamentally change access to justice for the better while making for a happier, healthier and more effective legal profession for many years to come.

Another sports legend, Wayne Gretzky, offers us great advice as we look out towards that future: skate to where the puck is going, not where the puck has been.

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August 18, 2016

And the #1 Reason People Don’t Have a Lawyer When They Need One Is…

With children and young people everywhere getting ready to head back to school, I thought I’d start today’s post with a short pop quiz:

Name the #1 reason why people don’t use lawyers when they encounter a legal issue:

A.     Believe it wouldn’t make any difference

B.     Too expensive/can’t afford it

C.     Don’t recognize a need for legal advice

D.    Don’t know how or where to find one

E.     Determined to handle it on their own

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June 23, 2016

Which Way Is the Camera on Our Phone Facing?

A picture can paint a thousand words. And sometimes a good metaphor or analogy can have an even greater impact. I witnessed a great example of that a few weeks ago when Lisa Foster, the Director of the Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice, took out her smart phone and used it as a metaphor for the justice system as the frame for some really thought-provoking remarks.

Ms. Foster demonstrated how she could use the camera on her phone to point it one way and take a selfie, or turn it the other direction and take a picture of the people in front of her. In the justice system, she keenly noted, we take selfies. That is, we look at the system from the perspective of the lawyers, judges and court personnel who are inside of it, not from the perspective of the people who rely on the system for access to justice.

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April 19, 2016

The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working Anymore

This title phrase in some form or another has been used in a variety of contexts over the years as a call to action when longstanding business models fail to keep pace with changing times. I don’t know whether anyone has specifically called out our legal profession using that phrase, but it is only a matter of time. The fact is that a majority of people who need legal help believe that our services as lawyers are unaffordable and aren’t even coming to us when they encounter legal problems, and those are growing trends.

While there are a variety of causes for these unfortunate trends, three fundamental problems are our profession’s overall failure to recognize and leverage advances in technology, fully utilize new practice models, and improve our business processes. I say overall failure because there are some notable exceptions on all three of these fronts of lawyers who are showing the rest of us that it not only can be done, it can be done very successfully. Unfortunately, they remain the exceptions, and as a result increasing numbers of people are turning to others outside of our profession to solve their legal problems.

We can do something about this, and it starts with being open to doing things differently. In my last post, I talked about the importance of rethinking our pricing in the consumer and small business markets as a necessary first step towards delivering our services as efficiently and affordably as possible.

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