Remarks which accompanied the presentation of John Skilton on behalf of the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services at the hearings of Ethics 2000 on February 4th.
Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services
The Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services has previously appeared before the Commission with a recommendation for an amendment to Model Rule 1.2(c) and the commentary to that Rule. The purpose of the recommended amendment was to permit the meeting of the legal needs of moderate income persons by taking advantage of new technologies - in this case, telephone hotlines. The Standing Committee has continued to study the issue of the unmet needs of moderate income persons and has concluded that its initiatives with respect to use of new technologies can provide a way to meet these needs.
At the Annual Meeting in Toronto last August, our President-Elect, Bill Paul, spoke to the House of Delegates and raised this very issue. President-Elect Paul said:
Another area which justifies high priority is
accelerating efforts to ensure that all Americans have
access to legal services, including those of moderate
means. The problem is not inadequate supply to meet
demand. We have a lawyer population of almost one
million. The difficulty seems to be in the delivery
mechanism and in the economics, so that we have a
middle class whose civil legal needs are under served,
as well as poor citizens whose legal needs simply are
The burgeoning access to top technology that is shaping
the new century provides a unique opportunity to
bridge the gap between the under served public and
an abundance of lawyers.
This growth, when coupled with other new
communication services like interactive television, may
help us enhance our practices by providing affordable
legal services to those large segments of our
population whose legal needs are currently under
We should determine whether we can harness the
tools of the new age to provide new and additional
methods of delivery of legal services to the public. At
the same time, we must retain our traditional values of
ethics, integrity and competence.
President -Elect Pauls message is clear: We should take advantage of modern technology to make legal services available to more people. The Standing Committee feels that expanded use of telephone hotlines can accomplish this goal. The Standing Committee notes that Draft No.6 of Proposed Revised Rule 1.7 (c) contains language to the effect that the informed consent of the client be set forth in a writing signed by the client. The provision of legal advice through a telephone hotline may preclude the opportunity to obtain a writing signed by the client. It is the recommendation of the Standing Committee that this version of the rule be modified to include language such as: "the informed consent of the client shall be set forth in a writing signed by the client or recorded in another means such as a audio recording of the informed consent."