August 06, 2016

ABA futures panel recommends sweeping changes in delivery of legal services

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 6, 2016 — The American public faces significant, unmet legal needs that require considerably more innovation and other efforts to bolster access to affordable legal services, the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services said in a report issued today.

The commission, releasing findings from a two-year study, offered 10 recommendations to build on past national efforts and to ensure that everyone has meaningful assistance for essential legal means. The recommendations call for sweeping changes to both the civil and criminal systems of justice.

One recommendation, urging state courts to adopt model regulatory objectives for the delivery of legal services, was approved as ABA policy by the House of Delegates in February. Other recommendations have been debated but not embraced by the Association, such as alternative business structures (ABS) for U.S. law firms. As part of a broader recommendation, the commission said future “exploration” of ABS would be “useful.”

The commission’s10 recommendations, all accompanied by sub-recommendations and supporting materials, are:

  • The legal profession should support the goal of providing some form of effective assistance for essential civil legal needs to all persons otherwise unable to afford a lawyer.

  • Courts should consider regulatory innovations in the area of legal services delivery.

  • All members of the legal profession should keep abreast of relevant technologies.

  • Individuals should have regular legal checkups, and the ABA should create guidelines for lawyers, bar associations and others who develop and administer such checkups.

  • Courts should be accessible, user-centric, and welcoming to all litigants, while ensuring fairness, impartiality and due process.
  • The ABA should establish a Center for Innovation.

  • The legal profession should partner with other disciplines and the public for insights about innovating the delivery of legal services.

  • The legal profession should adopt methods, policies, standards, and practices to best advance diversity and inclusion.
  • The criminal justice system should be reformed.

  • Resources should be vastly expanded to support long-standing efforts that have proven successful in addressing the public’s unmet needs for legal services.

The commission’s report can be found here.

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