News Tag: Future of the Profession

March 23, 2016

The Billable Hour: Putting it Out to Pasture to Improve Access to Justice

While it’s been years in the making, with some notable exceptions our profession has managed over time to price the proverbial regular guy out of the market for legal services. It has reached the point that many lawyers will tell you only half-jokingly that even they could not afford their own services if they were to encounter a serious legal problem.

In part, this sad state of affairs is a reflection that in too many cases, our services as lawyers really have become too expensive for low and moderate income people who need them. It also is a reflection though that the market for legal services is largely opaque when it comes to pricing: people who might be able to afford the legal help they need often don’t even try to get a lawyer because they have no idea what it might cost.

These are problems largely of our own making, and the billable hour is a common denominator.

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February 29, 2016

Access to Justice and the Critical Diagnostic Role of Lawyers

Some Good Food for Thought from Other Disciplines

Having shared some thoughts on the future of our profession and what we might learn from other disciplines in part one of this post, today I turn to the billion-dollar question of what it all means for access to justice.

Looking at this question through the lens of the client as we always should and recognizing all of the advances in access that technology and improvements in court processes are making possible, when does someone really need the advice or assistance of a lawyer to justly resolve their legal issue? When is it okay for people to use increasingly robust self-help legal resources to address their issue rather than get assistance from a good lawyer, especially knowing there is not nearly enough free and affordable legal help to go around today? And finally, what should we as a legal community be doing to shape the future so that all people have access to the level of legal help they need to achieve justice regardless of their income or circumstances?

All big questions for sure, and I think the answers we collectively write in the next few years will be critical to whether the future turns out to be a boon for both our profession and access to justice, or the end of our profession and justice system as we know them. While that may sound overly dramatic, I am not sure we can overstate the magnitude of change that is both necessary and already afoot, or the need for the legal community to get out in front of these changes to lead the way towards a better future.

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January 25, 2016

Access to Justice and the Future of the Legal Profession

Some Good Food for Thought from Other Disciplines

What do a high-end hotel chain, the medical profession, or behavioral economics have to do with the future of our legal profession? And when it comes to access to justice, what difference does it make?

Being the know-it-alls we tend to be as lawyers and working in a legal system fundamentally framed by precedents and a this is how it’s been done in the past mentality, adapting to change and finding wisdom from outside of the law do not come easy for us. Yet it’s no secret that big changes already are afoot in our profession and are about to accelerate rapidly in the next few years. There’s a lot we can learn from other disciplines that also are confronting a changing world where technology plays an increasingly integral role. While I wasn’t consciously thinking about it in these terms, three seemingly unrelated things I read over the holiday break got me thinking more clearly about the way forward for law and justice.

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