The Future of Legal Services: Professional Regulation and Federalism—Let’s Remove Access Barriers
As part of our Future of Legal Services Speaker Series, on December 9 from 10–11 a.m. MST, IAALS and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law co-hosted a virtual discussion with Dan Rodriguez, former dean of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, on why our balkanized system of professional regulation makes it much more difficult to meet the demand for legal services, and how states can join together and offer more legal services to those in need without opening up the public to the risk of harm.
COVID-19 in the United States is a national health and economic crisis, and it requires an all-hands-on-deck-approach. But our system of federalism is poorly suited to comprehensive national efforts. States competing against one another to collect suitable PPE equipment or the fact that, for the most part, individuals have been unable to travel across state lines without serious interference, are only a couple examples of the challenges we face when solutions to national problems are offered piecemeal, state-by-state. The urgency of the problem demanded we adapt to circumstances, and the resulting changes include revising rules or standards to expand the use of telemedicine, allowing for reimbursement under Medicaid rules, and allowing for greater availability of medical care to coronavirus patients and others across state lines.
Similarly, we see the coming tsunami of legal claims by individuals for issues made worse by the pandemic—legal problems related to housing, family law, benefits, consumer credit, and bankruptcy, to name a few—that will require us to change our thinking if we are to address the need nationally. But, unlike the efforts to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, state supreme courts have not yet issued a single regulatory change to make it easier to provide services to those in need, whether through expanding who can provide legal services or making significant changes to the barriers to lawyer mobility.
In this session, Professor Rodriguez shared with us why our balkanized system of professional regulation makes it much more difficult to meet the demand for legal services and how states can join together and offer more legal services to those in need without opening up the public to the risk of harm. Professor Rodriguez urged us to rethink in important ways the fundamental underpinnings of our present scheme of professional regulation for lawyers, and show us the ways in which the balkanization of professional legal service is a disservice to our needs as Americans in this interconnected world.
Approved for one hour of Colorado CLE credit.
Daniel B. Rodriguez is the former dean of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law (2012–2018) and holds the Harold Washington Professorship. Prior to his appointment as Northwestern’s dean, Rodriguez was the Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law; dean and Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law; and a professor of law at University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he clerked for Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was the 2014 President of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), and served on the American Bar Association's Commission on the Future of Legal Services. He is former chair of the ABA's Center for Legal Innovation, a member of the council of the American Law Institute, and a board member of Responsive Law.
Rodriguez has been outspoken about the future of legal education and the need for law schools to innovate in the current legal landscape. This focus on innovation has been a cornerstone of his tenure.Two new curricular options—the Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship concentration and the Innovation Lab—were added in 2016, exposing students to the issues that drive the innovation process and to the role of technology in the modern economy. In the fall of 2014, Northwestern Law introduced a new and unique Master of Science in Law (MSL) degree, designed specifically for professionals with backgrounds in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) and medicine.