Last week the Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation published a report that provides recommendations for reforming attorney regulations to meet the changing legal market. The recommendations are the result of nine months of work by a Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation. Public comments will be accepted through August 21.
You can read the full report here.
The task force was created in October 2019 to address failures in the consumer legal market, in which many lawyers are struggling to make ends meet, while many people are also going without legal help.
The task force brought together a diverse group of more than 50 lawyers and legal professionals from across Illinois to develop a series of regulatory reform recommendations to address these challenges. The recommendations seek to meet three main goals: (1) Help lawyers connect to more potential clients and offer more affordable and accessible solutions, (2) Help people to recognize they have a legal problem and identify where they can turn for affordable and reliable legal help and (3) Spur more innovation in the profession and the delivery of services.
The recommendations include:
• Allowing lawyers to provide technology-based products to help meet the demand for legal services through an “approved legal technology provider.” The provider could be owned in whole or in part by nonlawyers.
• Recognizing licensed paralegals who can provide expanded services to legal consumers while working under the supervision of a lawyer.
• Streamlining confusing legal advertising rules to focus on the core principle that lawyers should refrain from making false, misleading, coercive or harassing communications.
• Expanding the rules on limited scope representation to allow lawyers to participate in technology-based legal solutions and to streamline the process for limited-scope court appearances.
• Creating a community justice navigator to help the public identify legitimate sources of legal information and to connect people to lawyers and other appropriate forms of legal help. The web-based information hub would be similar to resources provided to the public by the IRS.
• Giving the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct a “plain language overhaul” that also rethinks “overly prescriptive or unnecessary regulatory provisions.”
• Evaluating whether broader changes are needed to relax limits on outside ownership of law firms. “a majority of the task force believes that preventing people who are not attorneys from having an ownership stake in law firms is unduly stifling innovation and preventing solo and small firm lawyers from reaching the scale necessary to reach the consumer legal market,” the report says.
I have not had a chance to read the report so I can't comment on anything specifically. However, I can say that the report is long, detailed and thoughtful. Some of the suggesting do indeed support some significant changes in the regulation of the profession, and it is refreshing to see that the authors have recommended specific changes to the rules of professional conduct to match the recommendations.
This last point is important. It always bothers me when I see recommendations that go against the current rules but no suggestion to change the rules. If you are going to suggest new approaches, we will need new rules to match them.
But, like I said, I don't have the time right now to read the report so I can' comment on the details. I will eventually get to it and let you know what I think.