University of Denver

Update: ATILS State Bar of California Trustees’ Vote

Co-Founder/CEO, ROSS Intelligence

If you are reading this, you have likely heard the news that on Thursday, March 12, 2020, the State Bar of California Trustees voted to postpone passing the motion to explore the development of a regulatory sandbox to May 2020 rather than pass the motion during the March vote. If you did not know that, you are now up to speed. I tweeted shortly after the meeting concluded…

Now while I did also tweet that another vote regarding the motion will be taking place in May 2020 in the same chain…

…I should have noted that the State Bar of California Trustees did not vote permanently against the motion, but rather voted against moving forward with the motion this month and delayed their final decision until May 2020. Mea culpa. You may not have guessed this from my tweet, but I am very upset with the delay. In my eyes, every day, hour, or minute of delay leads to bad legal outcomes for Californians. Our legal system is in crisis. The idea that we need more time to study and consider things seems unnecessary to me.

The fact that the Board of Trustees felt that a two-month delay was necessary to pass a motion to explore the development of a regulatory sandbox, not even to create one, left me and many people upset. However, I do remain positive. The Board of Trustees did pass some motions before voting to postpone the sandbox motion, including a motion to require lawyers to stay abreast of the “risks and benefits” of relevant technology, allowing lawyers to share settlement fees with nonprofits, and a motion that will enable the expansion of legal paraprofessionals in California.

Seeing the tremendous amount of support on Twitter that flowed from my tweets on the sandbox approach and the ATILS’ efforts provides me with hope that the vote in May 2020 will be one that allows our field to progress towards change. But now, as a community, we have to turn our kinetic access-to-justice energy into focused action. It’s time to turn likes, retweets, and retweets with comments into letters, phone calls, and public commentary.

The reason the Board voted to postpone their decision was due to “political headwinds against the Task Force” and the need to “consult with stakeholders”—it’s time to generate our own political headwinds and ensure all the stakeholders in the access to justice community have a voice in this as well. So, here’s what you can do:

  1. Write letters of support of the motion to ATILS@calbar.ca.gov. Each letter is shared with the ATILS Task Force as well as the Board of Trustees;
  2. Tweet, email, or call Trustee members directly. Here are their names, Twitter handles, emails, and phone numbers, which is all available via public websites:
  1. Spread the word to other stakeholders! Please encourage other stakeholders you know to write letters, tweet, email, and call the folks above.
  2. Just before the vote in May, there will be a period for open public commentary. I will be tweeting the phone number and information ahead of this meeting so please do phone in. Everyone gets 3 minutes of airtime. If you are passionate about making a difference, this is a great way to ensure your voice is heard by the Board of Trustees.

To help make showing your commitment to access to justice and support of the ATILS motion to explore a regulatory sandbox in California easy, Rohan Pavuluri and I teamed up to create this email template. Please take two minutes to send an email. Each one helps!

In November 2019, I wrote a piece about my hopes for reregulation. In it I state:

“We cannot afford to fail those who cannot afford legal representation. We cannot afford the continued decay of the justice system to the detriment of the American citizenry. We cannot afford to not consider unlocking legal regulation when it is so very clear our current system of regulation is failing all of us, every single day. The words “equal justice under law” are etched into the façade of the Supreme Court. It is time that we start living these words. It is time we reregulate the delivery of legal services in a way that ensures equal access to justice, in form and in substance, regardless of mother tongue or economic status. More money should never mean more justice.”

Let’s rally together and create some political headwinds. I can’t wait for all the stakeholders reading this to make your position known to the California State Bar Trustees and, eventually, the Supreme Court of California, who will ultimately decide whether a regulatory sandbox will be formed in California. My fingers and toes are crossed.