The Delivery Committee is seeking nominations for the 2019 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access. The Brown Award honors programs and projects that advance access to legal services for those of moderate incomes in ways that are exemplary and replicable. The nomination form is online, quick and easy. Deadline for nominations is November 30, 2018.
Call for Comments on Client Matching Services Study (IL) and Proposed Ethics Advisory Opinion (MI)
On May 30, 2018, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) of the Supreme Court of Illinois released for comments their Client Lawyer Matching Services Study. The Study approaches the issue through an access to justice lens, and offers a "framework to regulate entities that would connect clients and lawyers, while preserving lawyer independence and other core values of the profession."
The State Bar of Michigan Professional Ethics Committee is soliciting member comments on a Proposed Ethics Advisory Opinion that concludes that a lawyer's participation in a for-profit online matching service is not ethically permissible if the attorney’s fee is paid to and controlled by a non-lawyer and the cost for the online matching service is based on a percentage of the attorney’s fee paid.
On April 19, 2018, the North Carolina State Bar Ethics Committee declined to take action on proposed 2017 Formal Ethics Opinion 6, which concluded that lawyers may participate in Avvo Legal Services or similar online platforms, until the Authorized Practice Committee issues an advisory opinion on the unauthorized practice of law issue raised. North Carolina would be the first to give the thumbs up to this business model, following a series of negative Opinions out of Ohio, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Learn more in this article from the ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct™. As a related matter, in July 2017, the North Carolina Ethics Committee approved a proposed amendment to Rule 5.4 which would create an exception to the fee-splitting prohibition and allow payment to online platforms absent interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment.
In 2017, the ABA surveyed lawyers about their use of and attitudes toward unbundled legal services. Over 34,000 private practitioners from 25 states participated, while actual response rates vary from question to question. Click here to access an infographic displaying some of the results, including the percentage of caseloads dedicated to unbundling, reasons why some lawyers don't unbundle, experiences from lawyers who do unbundle and what would encourage more unbundling.
Also, see the recently released article, Unbundled Legal Services: At the tipping-point? which discusses the survey results and also gives a detailed history of the emergence and advocacy of unbundling and examples of unbundling initiatives.
A Florida Circuit Court Judge has ordered Ice Legal P.A., a law firm who had prepared documents for an otherwise pro se defendant, to either file a notice of appearance or notice of non-representation. As set out in the responding Notice of Non-Appearance of Limited-Representation Counsel, at a January 25th hearing, upon noticing that the defendant’s motion contained the language “Prepared with Assistance of Counsel,” the Court refused to hear the defendant’s motion on the grounds that the defendant was represented by counsel who needed to be present at the hearing and further ordered reimbursement to the plaintiff for an hour’s worth of legal fees. Read the full Notice asking that the Court vacate the Order here, which lays out the argument that: the Court’s order exceeds the reach of its personal jurisdiction because Ice Legal had not appeared in the case as either a party or an attorney of record; that not only does Florida Bar Rule 4-1.2 (c) formally approve of unbundling, that both the ABA and the Florida Bar Association encourage its use as a means to address the access to justice problem; and that the comments to 4-1.2 (c) provide that a lawyer drafting documents for a pro se litigant need not sign the documents but must include the language “Prepared with the assistance of counsel.”
The Virginia State Bar Council voted 59 to 6 in favor of Legal Ethics Opinion 1885, which concludes that a lawyer may not participate in an attorney-client matching service under the facts presented in the opinion because participation violates the Rules of Professional Conduct governing fee sharing with nonlawyers, paying for referrals, and safeguarding client funds. The proposed LEO was sent to the Supreme Court of Virginia for its consideration.
The Practising Law Institute (PLI) just posted a FREE 3-hour training program on unbundling titled, Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation 2018, featuring M. Sue Talia. Lecture topics include:
Register for the PLI program here which is eligible for CLE credit.
The winner of the 2018 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access is the Chicago Bar Foundation for its unique dedication to increasing legal services for those of modest means. This year, the Committee is also recognizing two nominees with Meritorious Recognition, the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal and Chi City Legal. The winner of the public choice Brown Select Award is the Rural Law Opportunities Program, a partnership between the University of Nebraska College of Law, Chadron State College, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Wayne State College. Read the ABA Press Release here.
In an effort to expand access to legal services in the state, the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission has proposed amendments that would expand upon the Rules of Civil Procedure regarding limited-scope representation. Currently, the practice is permitted in the state, and the new rules, if adopted by the Supreme Court, would provide additional clarity on matters such as document preparation.
On September 20, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court adopted amendments to its Rules of Professional Conduct and Court Rules that permit an attorney to limit the scope of representation and that govern qhostwriting, communications, notice, service and filing, and appearance and withdrawal for limited scope engagements. The new rules will go into effect January 1, 2018.
The Iowa Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission released a report outlining recommendations and goals for removing barriers to civil justice for the low-income. The report discusses expanding limited scope representation as a means to provide more pro bono services and better serve rural areas, and recommends that the ISBA educate attorneys on limited scope representation to overcome resistance with a basis in unfamiliarity or unease.
Attorneys providing limited scope services in Oregon have recently been given more guidance by the courts. Effective August 2017, Oregon Uniform Trial Court Rule 5.170 outlines an attorney's notice, termination and service of documents duties, and provides a Notice of Limited Scope Representation form and a Notice of Termination of Limited Scope Representation form. For a detailed discussion about the new Rule and the history of limited scope representation in Oregon, read "Unbundling Legal Services: New Trial Court Rule Supports Access to Justice" in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin.
The Commission has released its 2017-2020 Strategic Plan titled, "Advancing Access to Justice in Illinois." The plan sets out a statement of principles, discusses the need for access to justice, and identifies 10 "priority initiatives" for 2017-2020 which are accompanied by a series of detailed recommendations to achieve them. Notably, initiative #9 is to, "Identify, develop, and promote the implementation of court policies and rules that promote legal representation, including limited scope representation..."
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.
The 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?."
UPDATE: On July 27, 2017, a federal judge ordered a more formal preliminary injunction allowing nonprofit legal groups nationwide to continue to represent imigrants facing deportation on a limited scope basis without the need for full, formal representation.
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.
Mediate BC's Family Unbundled Legal Services Project aims to encourage more family lawyers to offer unbundled legal services to support families using mediation. As part of Phase 1, the project sought input from BC family lawyers, family mediators and the public through online surveys, the results of which are available here. Findings show that lawyers want a more structured approach to integrating unbundled services into their practice. In response, Mediate BC created the Unbundling Toolkit for Lawyers and Paralegals. Further, Mediate BC and Access to Justice BC are working with the Courthouse Libraries BC to create a roster of family lawyers and paralegals willing to provide unbundled family law services. Lawyers who join will have the additional option of adding their names and contact information the Canadian national database of lawyers providing unbundled legal services of all types, run by the National Self-Represented Litigants Project.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has published research into the experiences of people using family law services. The results include responses from 115 firms and 117 consumers, and include in-depth interviews with 16 firms and 23 consumers. The purpose of the survey was to explore issues of access, quality and cost for potentially vulnerable consumers of family law services. Access a summary of the findings as well as the full report here.
The Legal Problem Resolution Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Justice, provides data on how people resolve their legal problems. Over 10,000 people were surveyed by telephone. The findings show that only 10% of people with legal problems use a solicitor, and often only after approaching other sources of advice first. Learn more about the results here.
The 2017 Brown Award recipient is the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Meritorious Recognition goes to: The Center for Out-of-Court Divorce, together with Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver; the Maryland Courts Self-Help Centers; and the Chicago Bar Foundation/Justice Entrepreneurs Project Pricing Toolkit. The winner of the Brown Select Award, determined through online public voting, is Court Buddy. The awards will be presented at the ABA midyear meeting in Miami in February.
The New York Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts, with the Consent of the Administrative Board of the Courts, has issued an administrative order making it the policy of the Unified Court System to support and encourage limited scope representation and encourage judges and justices to permit limited scope appearances (under certain conditions - see full Order here). This comes not long after the New York State Bar Association's House of Delegates adopted a report endorsing limited-scope representation. For more information, read this New York Law Journal article.
The Supreme Court of Texas created the Texas Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services to expand the availability of civil legal services to low- and middle-income Texans. The Commission recently released a report with eight recommendations to the Court, including recommendations to: create pipelines of services for modest-means clients support; promote existing and new legal incubators; and amend rules to address and clarify issues raised by limited-scope representation. Access the full report here.
Report and Recommendations of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Services
The October 2016 report from the ISBA Task Force on the Future of Legal Services explores issues facing the profession and provides recommendations to deal with them. Included in the discussion are ways to, "Preserve and Champion Lawyer Value" and "Embrace and Capture the Latent Legal Market." Access the full ISBA Task Force on the Future of Legal Services here and learn more in this Illinois Bar Journal Article.
In August 2016, The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) conducted a survey of 1,500 Ontarians on their views of justice and justice accessibility. The results are now available, and among other interesting findings, the survey found that unbundled or partial legal services is the most preferred initiative among the respondents to increase access to justice. Access the full report here.
The Supporting Families Through Change: Unbundled Legal Services Project is being advanced by Mediate BC to encourage more BC family lawyers to offer unbundled legal services to families experiencing separation and divorce. To learn more about attitudes toward, and experience with, unbundling, the project sought input from BC family lawyers, family mediators and the public through online surveys. The survey responses are being released through a series of posts on the BC Mediation Blog. Check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Survey of Lawyer Incubators
The Delivery Committee, in collaboration with the Incubator Consortium, has conducted a survey of lawyer incubators to collect and share data about programs and their participants. The findings are now available in the 2016 Comprehensive Survey of Lawyer Incubators report. Access the Report for detailed information on incubator program characteristics, resources and training, client and community services and the future outlook.
The ABA House of Delegates approved Resolution 114 at the 2016 Annual Meeting. The resolution calls upon all those that provide online legal forms to the public to include clear and conspicuous links to lawyers or lawyer referral services. The Committee is working collaboratively to implement this policy.
The ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services, a Presidential Initiative that kicked off in 2014 under past President William Hubbard, released its final report on Saturday during the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. "The Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States" makes recommendations for how the bar can close the access to justice gap in America. Access the Executive Summary here and the interactive online version here.
The Colorado Bar Association’s Ethics Committee has revised Formal Opinion 101 addressing the unbundling of legal services. The new, more comprehensive Opinion discusses the provisions of Colorado RPC 1.2(c) that expressly allow limited scope representation, related rules that enable lawyers to provide limited scope representation and to ghostwrite pleadings and briefs, and other rules of professional conduct that lawyers engaged in limited scope representation must follow. The Ethics Committee originally adopted Formal Opinion 101 in 1998, and the new Opinion 101 discusses the increased use of unbundling throughout the state and country since then.
Access Legal Care Expands into Illinois
Access Legal Care, the 2013 recipient of the Delivery Committee's Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access, has expanded into Illinois. Originally from Michigan, Access Legal Care provides affordable help for common legal needs by using a model that includes fixed fees and other methods of reducing costs, resulting in services that cost 40-60% less than the industry average.
Unbundling Rule Changes in North Dakota
Starting August 1, 2016, lawyers in North Dakota will have greater flexibility when representing client on a limited scope basis. The Supreme Court has adopted amendments to North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure 11, North Dakota Rules of Court 11.2 and North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2. The changes allow lawyers in that state to prepare pleadings, briefs or other documents on behalf of a self-represented client without being assigned to the case and allow them to file a certificate of completion for a limited appearance instead of having to get court approval to withdraw. In addition, the new Rule 1.2 now requires client consent in writing for limited scope agreements -- a deviation from the old rule which only stated a preference for written consent.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has amended its Rules of Professional Conduct to further clarify the responsibilies of attorneys who offer limited scope representation. The revisions were originally proposed via petition by the Arkansas Bar Association, which were adopted in the Court's May 12 order, to take immediate effect. The revisions clarify when a client's informed consent has to be in writing and outlines an attorney's communication responsibilities when the opposing party is represented by a limited scope attorney. The new rules as well as sample Notices of Limited Scope Representation and Notice of Completion can be accessed here.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas have released their 2015 Annual Justice Partners Report. The Report provides that while two-thirds of adults in Arkansas have experienced a civil legal problem in the past 18 months, only 14% accessed a lawyer, court or legal aid. Access the full report with additional findings here.
The 21st Century Practice Task Force at the State Bar of Michigan has released a report in which it proposes "Five Key Problems and Our Keys to Solving Them." Recommendations include an unbundling system to expand access, billable hour alternatives, support for innovative law firm models, dynamic and data-driven new lawyer support via incubators, and much more. Access the full report and the State Bar's new Futures page here.
Cases Without Counsel, a project of The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), was a qualitative study conducted through one-on-one interviews designed to explore the issue of self-representation from the litigants’ perspective. Access the findings in the Research Report and specific recommendations in the Recommendations Report. Additional materials and resources are also available in this Toolkit for those interested in learning more or implementing the recommendations in their jurisdictions. See ABC News coverage of the study here.
Two law firms based in Wal-mart stores have recently opened in Missouri. The Law Store handles basic legal services such as traffic offenses, family law and wills and estate planning and uses a menu-style pricing model instead of the traditional hourly rate. Five more locations are planned in Missouri by the end of the year, and 11 other states have expressed interest. Another law firm based in Wal-Mart stores, Kaine Law, was recently featured in the ABA Journal article, "Law firms are already inside some US Wal-Marts."
Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada
The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice recently conducted the “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada” survey which measured the frequency and ways in which members of the Canadian public experience everyday legal problems. The survey asks the public what these problems cost – in dollars, time and opportunity costs, costs to their physical and mental health and costs to their livelihood. Access the report here.
The Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) Lawyer Referral Service has launched a limited scope representation initiative to connect interested panel members with clients of limited means who may benefit from limited scope services.
The Arkansas Supreme Court is considering proposed changes to its Rules of Professional Conduct that would provide additional guidance for attorneys wishing to provide limited scope representation. Recently, an order soliciting comments was issued in response to a petition that the Arkansas Bar Association filed, requesting the changes.
The Chicago Bar Foundation and its incubator, the Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP), have released the Pricing Toolkit for attorneys seeking to serve low- and moderate-income clients. The Toolkit is designed to help attorneys value, price, and provide their services in ways that are affordable and accessible to folks who fall into the Justice Gap.
2015 Brown Award winner, Call for Justice LLC, is holding its Legal Liaison Program on March 29. C4J collaborates with United Way 211, the state’s largest information and referral resource, to provide training on how to make better, more targeted legal referrals to available programs. At the event, leaders from community groups and organizations will be trained on where to find legal resources.
The New York City Bar Association has just made permanent its Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project, which was launched a year ago in the Eastern District as a pilot program. The program provides limited-scope representation, advice and consultation to pro se litigants.
The National Self-Represented Litigants Project has just launched a National Database of Professionals Assisting Self-Represented Litigants to connect those offering innovative and responsive services and to provide information to self-represented litigants looking for affordable services. Read more about it and the issues surrounding it in the article, Reasonable Doubt: Why Better Access to Justice is Every Canadian’s Issue.
We need to elevate the average person’s knowledge for preventative legal checkups, but how? A discussion from Above the Law.
Above the Law discusses how bar associations are helping lawyers meet their ethical obligation to stay abreast of technological advancements.
Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog discusses an August 2017 Oklahoma Bar Association event dedicated to limited scope representation.
With the recent addition of Nebraska, now 28 states have adopted the duty of technology competence.
The Voices for Civil Justice blog discusses the findings of research studying voter's opinions on access to the civil justice system.
A discussion in Solo Practicve University's blog about the writing requirement (or lack thereof) for limited scope informed consent.
Robert Ambrogi discusses a new cloud-based lawyer referral service that makes it possible for someone to get a referral 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Access to justice project in Alberta funded by Law Foundation of Ontario
A Canadian Lawyer Magazine Blog post discussing the Alberta Limited Legal Services Project.
This is the second of a two-part Buffalo Business First article analyzing limited scope representation and its status in New York.
This is the first of a two-part Buffalo Business First article analyzing limited scope representation and its status in New York.
Dave Pantzer discusses the October 14th Maryland Access to Justice Commission and Maryland State Bar Association Section on Delivery of Legal Services conference, “Building an Effective Limited Scope Practice in Maryland.”
To learn more about attitudes toward, and experience with, unbundling, Mediate BC conducted online surveys of family lawyers, family mediators and the public. Survey responses from are being released through a series of posts on the BC Mediation Blog. Check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Table Comparing Three New Different ATJ Sets of Recommendations Should Help Move Collaboration Forward
Richard Zorza makes a side-by-side comparison of the Guidance for NCSC Grants for Strategic Planning, the Report of the ABA Commission of the Future of Legal Services, and the NCSC/IILS Civil Justice Initiative Report.
We Now Have the Data That shows That The One-Side-Self-Represented Case is the Dominant Case Situation in US Civil State Courts and That We Need a Fundamental Rethink of The State Civil Justice System
Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog
Richard Zorza discusses the recommendation to create a National Commission on Uniform Court Forms to generate model forms to be used by both represented and unrepresented litigants on a multi-state basis.
Richard Zorza created a chart that shows the relationship of Justice for All Components to the ABA Futures Commission Recommendations.
North Carolina Restricts the Distribution of Legal Self-Help Software to Consumers
In his eLawyering Blog, Richard Granat discusses implications of new legislation out of North Carolina that imposes restrictions on distributing self-help legal software over the Web.
Through his LawSites blog, Robert Ambrogi created a list of legal technology start-ups and is asking the public to notify him of additions or changes.
Richard Zorza discusses the new Guide and how reaching 100% access will include use and understanding of remote services.
The ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services has requested comment on its Issues Paper Concerning Legal Checkups.
Richard Zorza recommends the Self-Represented Litigants Network Access to Justice Twitter Trends, a new resource that highlights developments in the ATJ community.
In his Law Sites blog, Robert Ambrogi discusses LegalYou.com, part portal for self-represented litigants and part storefront for unbundled services.
Richard Zorza shares an abstract from his upcoming Georgetown Jornal of Legal Ethics paper, "An Introductory Exploration of Five Broad New Ideas on How to Cut Through the Access to Justice-Commercialization-Deregulation Conundrum."
Richard Zorza discusses the lack of incentives towards access to justice in our current system and how the problem is not a lack of models or resources but a lack of energy and planning.