ABA Center for Innovation Trends Report Details Strides in Legal Innovation

August 3, 2022

"blue graph with uptrend line and arrows"Today, the American Bar Association Center for Innovation released the inaugural issue of the Innovation Trends Report, which explores innovation within the ABA, in legal technology, and in legal regulatory reform. 

Innovation within the ABA

Within the ABA, sections are working on new, innovative projects with an eye toward shaping and advancing the U.S. justice system, utilizing data and new technologies to guide the legal profession forward. These efforts include: 

  • The Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is incorporating Professional Identity Formation (PIF), which emphasizes practical skills, professional competencies, and self-reflective learning, into the required curriculum for ABA-accredited law schools. 
  • The ABA Legal Education Police Consortium has gathered 60 participating ABA law schools to contribute to national efforts focused on policing and public safety. 
  • The Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is collecting data and reporting on diversity within the profession through the Model Diversity Survey. 
  • The Center for Innovation is promoting data-driven decision-making among lawyers, courts, bar associations, and other key players in the legal system via the Justice System Metrics website and tool. 

Legal Technology

In addition to internal innovation, the ABA’s report explores recent developments in technology with significant implications for the legal industry. Alongside a detailed explainer on application programming interfaces (APIs), the authors delve into how the legal industry can prepare for the Metaverse, technology’s emerging role in the law school classroom, and why technology competency is imperative for lawyers.  

Regulatory Reform 

The Innovation Trends Report includes a testimonial from Rocket Lawyer on the company’s experience in Utah’s regulatory sandbox—a regulated space in which lawyers and other professionals can deliver nontraditional legal services under the supervision of the state supreme court. In the U.S. (outside of Utah’s sandbox), Rocket Lawyer assists individuals and small businesses in both state and federal practice areas. 

Rocket Lawyer users wanting to work with an attorney contract to do so directly with the provider. In Utah, however, the authorized Rocket Lawyer Attorney Services can offer direct and affordable legal help to consumers. Since entering the sandbox, Rocket Lawyer attorneys have assisted with a wide swath of legal issues, from debt and bankruptcy to immigration, family law, and criminal defense. Although the majority of clients are small-business owners, “many individuals have sought help with personal legal matters as well.” 

Finally, the report provides an overview of the current regulatory landscape in the United States, including a breakdown of unauthorized practice of law (UPL) rules, allied legal professionals, and alternative business structures. And although Utah and Arizona are currently leading the way when it comes to regulatory reform, other states, including Michigan and North Carolina, are in the process of exploring how changes to existing rules could increase access to justice.

The report concludes on an urgent note:

“What remains constant is a growing social problem—a lack of affordable or available legal assistance for people who have legal problems—that has already far outpaced the limited reach of pro bono services or legal aid. Unless states can stem this tide, we can expect the discussion of regulatory innovation to continue in the years to come.” 

For information on how the ABA Center for Innovation is creating more accessible, efficient, and effective legal services, please visit their website. For up-to-date information on the ongoing work and conversations around legal regulation, please visit IAALS' Knowledge Center

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