“I think the problem we have when it comes to the way we regulate the delivery of legal services is that we have inherited a set of assumptions that may have been useful at the time they were created,” says Zack DeMeola, director of legal education and the legal profession at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (widely known as IAALS). “But that was before advanced techniques and advanced technological ability for collecting and analyzing data existed.”
DeMeola is not alone in this assessment. Among those who are tracking regulatory change affecting legal services, “data” is a word that comes up again and again—both in terms of more information being gathered and made available, and in terms of lawyers and others reviewing recent data before taking a position based on assumptions that the public will be ill served by certain changes or that lawyers will necessarily lose business.
Though this is certainly not an exclusive list, here are a few starting points for those interested in data regarding sandboxes, alternative business structures, and other developments in regulatory change:
- IAALS maintains the Unlocking Legal Regulation Knowledge Center and also recently released the report “Justice Needs and Satisfaction in the United States of America,” in collaboration with The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL). DeMeola is excited about this report in part because it takes a much broader look at justice needs, rather than focusing exclusively on the needs of those with low or modest incomes. “The crisis is to such a great extent that it has engulfed most of the middle class and small businesses,” he believes. “The issue is no longer relegated to the poorest of us; it’s relegated to most of us.”
- The ABA Center for Innovation published its Legal Innovation Regulatory Survey in 2019 and maintains a related online map that is continuously updated to reflect changes in each state. More recently, the center has undertaken an effort it simply calls the Data Project. “How will we know if we’re closing the justice gap?” says Don Bivens, chair of the center, about the purpose of this project. “We’ve been thinking about how to measure, who needs to be involved in measuring, and what’s impossible to measure.” The center has held national colloquies with judges, scholars, and other interested parties, Bivens says, and is very close to publishing results, in the form of metrics that can be used to evaluate various innovations, based on their aims.
- The Utah Supreme Court’s Office of Legal Services Innovation, with assistance from IAALS, gathers and makes publicly available its monthly reports (which are cumulative) on participation in that state’s regulatory sandbox, including the number of applicants and how many were approved, and whether there were any consumer complaints against any of the participants. The office also offers a News You Can Use Series, which provides more general information.
- As we were finalizing this issue of Bar Leader, IAALS published a blog post that highlights some key data points from Utah's July 2021 monthly report. Within nine months, the post says, more than 3,000 legal services have been sought by about 2,500 unduplicated clients. The services received have included (among others) end-of-life planning; marriage and family concerns; and business needs, such as intellectual property and entity incorporation. There's been one complaint per 1,000 services delivered, and one harm-based complaint per 1,500 services delivered.