The Oregon State Bar Futures Task Force have released a report titled, “The Future of Legal Services in Oregon.” The report discusses, among other topics, how the access-to-justice gap persists. How market and consumer expectations have changed, challenging the traditional and instead favoring alternative delivery models like unbundling and client-centric services that provide for greater transparency and affordability. And how new providers are stepping in to fill the void. The Task Force makes a number of detailed recommendations, some of which are to revise rules that create barriers to innovation, to establish a bar-sponsored incubator and to expand the lawyer referral service and modest means program.
On May 23, Rhode Island Supreme Court has issued an order provisionally amending Article V of the Rules of Professional Conduct to expand upon rules regarding the limited scope representation of clients. In doing so, the Court states that,"This Court recognizes that the provision of limited-scope representation services to litigants in Rhode Island is a novel and, at present, unknown frontier for the bench, bar, and lay public alike." The amendments, which establish procedures for preparing pleadings, limited appearances and withdrawal, are adopted on a provisional basis to encourage ongoing assessment and commentary. The Court will review those assessments in one year.
Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks DOJ from Preventing Limited Scope Assistance to Unrepresented Immigrants
On May 17, a federal court in Seattle issued a nationwide temporary restraining order allowing nonprofits to continue to provide limited scope assistance to immigrants facing deportation without having to formally represent them. The Northwest Immigrants Right Project (NWIRP) had previously received a letter from the Department of Justices’ Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) ordering them to “cease and desist” on the basis of a 2008 disciplinary rule that requires any attorney who “engage[s] in practice or preparation” of an immigration case to file an appearance. In response, the NWIRP filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. The hearing on the permanent injunction will be held on July 24, 2017. Learn more in The Legal Intelligencer article, "Unpacking Unbundled Legal Services: Why Does the DOJ Care?."
The DC Reduced Fee Lawyer & Mediator Referral Service (DC Refers) has launched an online directory of reduced fee lawyers as a pilot project. The mission of DC Refers is to "connect clients who need affordable legal and mediation services with qualified attorneys." The directory will include pre-screened attorneys who are willing to charge reduced fees to modest-means clients with incomes falling within 200-400% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Evaluation of Unbundling Providers and Consumers in Canada
Mediate BC's Family Unbundled Legal Services Project is now conducting surveys of BC family lawyers who have offered, or plan to offer, unbundled family law services as well as clients who have used such services. Read about other developments since the project's launch - including how the BC Law Society officially encouraged the provision of limited scope services and how former Ontario Court Chief Justice Bonkalo recommended more education on unbundling services in her “Family Legal Services Review“ - in this Slaw article. Similarly, those who have provided or received unbundled services through the Alberta Limited Legal Services Project are being asked to take surveys in order to gain insights into satisfaction levels. Like the BC project, the Alberta project maintains a list of lawyers who provide unbundled services.
The Judicial Council of California, with support from the Public Welfare Foundation, produced a nine-minute video to show how self-help centers can help people without lawyers with their essential civil legal needs – by guiding and referring the user to the right kind of legal help, or to relevant social services, depending on the need. California has a self-help center in every trial court jurisdiction, but the video features San Francisco, one of the most longstanding of these centers.
The Year in Review chronicles the work of the Delivery Committee and others who share a commitment to advancing access for those of moderate income. It highlights relevant articles, initiatives, policy, models and more from 2015. The annual Report is designed to help stakeholders broaden their understanding of the issues, identify others who are working in parallel paths and facilitate conversations about increased avenues of access to legal services. Access previous Year in Review reports here.