As I am sure you know, last year Utah and Arizona adopted significant changes to their approach to the regulation of the practice of law. Chief among these changes was the elimination of the ban on partnerships of lawyers and non-lawyers for the provision of legal services. The debate over measures like this one and over allowing "alternative business structures" for providing legal services has been going on for years, and much of the debate was based on data obtained by studying similar programs in the UK and Australia.
Now, about a year into the new era of regulation in Utah and Arizona, it is time to start looking at the date from the US. The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) is leading the way and in its initial report regarding Utah it says that numerous businesses and collaborations are up and running, providing a wide range of much-needed legal services. Of the 30 entities that have been approved by the Utah Supreme Court, 13 are considered as moderate risk, and one as high risk (considering both the likelihood of harm—as well as the degree of harm—that they might pose to consumers), but the IAALS considers the overall data so far to be very positive.
According to the recent report, "Utah’s sandbox has opened up a world of possibilities when it comes to how to practice law, and demonstrates how innovation, technology, and professionals who aren’t lawyers can work alongside attorneys and ensure consumers have real access to the entire spectrum of legal needs" and the report concludes that
We still have a long way to go and a lot of data to collect, but what we’ve seen so far does suggest that re-regulation has the potential to meaningfully increase access to justice and, importantly, the data shows that these kinds of innovations can be done safely. In just nine months, more than 2,500 people have received help with housing, immigration, healthcare, discrimination, employment, and a gamut of other issues. Lawyers are partnering up with other professionals to create new types of businesses, and technology is enabling them to do their jobs more efficiently. Instances of harm are rare—and, when they do occur, are being monitored and utilized by the Office of Legal Services Innovation to continually improve. As more states look to re-regulation as a means to increase access to legal services, the data from Utah’s sandbox—and the real people’s lives it is impacting—should be a strong push in that direction.
You can read more about the IAALS evaluation in their website.