A Quick Look at the ABA’s Report on the Future of Legal Services

The ABA’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services has been meeting for the past two years to discuss how to improve the delivery of legal services and increase access to those services. Back in April of this year, they asked for comments about whether there needed to be a regulatory structure for those types of legal services that are currently unregulated, which includes much of legal technology. They also solicited comments as to whether non-lawyers should remain barred from firm ownership.

All of these discussions were leading up to the ABA’s formal report on the future of legal services in the United States, which came out a few days ago. Here are some key findings:

  • The access to justice gap remains enormous. Legal aid organizations are overtaxed, pro bono representation can’t meet the need, and other initiatives have fallen far short.
  • People don’t obtain lawyers both because they cannot afford them and because they don’t know enough to know when their problems require legal representation.
  • Many new lawyers are un- or under-employed, even though there is a substantial need for legal services that is unmet.
  • Many different organizations are experimenting with technology to provide innovative ways to deliver legal services, but the legal profession is highly resistant to change.
  • Bias—in both its explicit and implicit forms—plagues the profession and impedes justice.
  • Court systems are inadequately funded.
  • Unbundling of legal services can benefit courts, lawyers, and clients.

In the coming days, I’ll dig into the specific recommendations of the report. The Commission didn’t pull any punches, and the recommendations are sweeping and will require a commitment to both increased innovation and funding. Some recommendations are sure to be controversial, but all of them are worth thinking about.

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