Unlocking Legal Regulation
Too many people cannot effectively access our legal system to protect their rights and resolve their disputes. Studies show that Americans seek lawyers for help or consider doing so for only 16 percent of the civil justice situations they encounter, and 76 percent of civil cases in state courts involve at least one party that does not have a lawyer at all. At the same time, restrictive rules prevent lawyers and others from serving clients in new ways. The vast unmet need for legal services undermines public confidence in our legal system.
We cannot continue to expect people to confront legal problems without legal advice. And if we want to make legal services more accessible, we must re-envision how they are delivered. IAALS’ Unlocking Legal Regulation project is about taking a bold step forward and laying the foundation for a consumer-centered regulatory system to ensure a more robust market for high-quality legal services—one that is competitive, broadly accessible, and better meets the needs of the people.
- Support and facilitate efforts to improve the regulation of legal services in the United States, including educating lawyers, courts, and the public on regulatory issues.
- Assess and support pilot projects for risk-based regulation in Utah and other states, including identifying metrics and conducting empirical research to evaluate outcomes.
- Develop a model for a regulatory entity focusing on risk-based regulation of legal services, with the goal of better serving and protecting consumers and having these attributes:
- Clearly articulated policy objectives and regulatory principles that drive governance, including a focus on outcomes and a proactive, preventative approach;
- Regulation of the provision of legal services, rather than only individual lawyers;
- Independence from management and control by those it regulates;
- Capability of operating at scale nationally; and
- State-of-the-art regulatory tools, guided by the assessment, analysis, and mitigation of consumer risk.
We live in a world where solutions are at our fingertips. From banking, to commuting, to buying a house, many innovative companies have emerged in the last decade to serve the needs of consumers, wherever they may be. But not legal needs. Similar companies cannot bring accessible legal solutions to the market because, in most places, today’s regulatory system says that anyone other than a lawyer providing legal services would be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and subject to penalties—even if the services actually help rather than harm consumers. Such barriers can apply to simply providing legal information or helping create legal documents.
What’s more, in most jurisdictions, current rules prohibit lawyers from sharing their fees with others, which can prevent non-lawyers with innovative access-to-justice solutions from working directly with lawyers to develop them. And although lawyers themselves are regulated, there is no structure in place in any state to authorize entities that want to develop legal service offerings, which bars outside innovators from entering the market and helping to meet consumer needs. By limiting the provision of legal services, this regulatory structure effectively denies access to many consumers, both individuals and businesses.
Eliminating these obstacles is necessary for change, but simply revising rules written for a different era is not enough. We must re-envision how legal services are delivered. We live in a time of unprecedented technological disruption and we must shift our thinking to catch up to the present. Every incentive exists for the creation of new pathways to legal services—demand is enormous, creativity is abundant, and the tools are more sophisticated than ever before—but we must first unlock legal regulation to make it possible.
A new framework is needed to regulate entities providing legal services if we are to expand access, better protect consumers, and respond nimbly to rapid social and technological changes. Through Unlocking Legal Regulation, IAALS will work with others seeking to open doors for lawyers and other service providers to use innovative ways to help more people access our legal system.
As part of this project, IAALS has launched a Knowledge Center to capture the ongoing work and conversations in the realm of legal regulation happening around the country. The Knowledge Center is designed to be an up-to-date resource with current state recommendations, ongoing scholarship, and additional resources for those exploring how unlocking legal regulation can be achieved.
IAALS has launched a monthly newsletter to keep our supporters and partners up to date on not only IAALS’ efforts, but also on the extraordinary efforts underway across the country to change the way legal services are delivered. Click here to sign up.
IAALS, the ABA Center for Innovation, the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, and Legal Hackers are hosting a quarterly speaker series, Redesigning Legal, to provide a forum to learn about and discuss the regulatory changes underway, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they provide. Industry leaders and experts will offer a variety of perspectives and break down common assumptions and misunderstandings, as well as provide information on the nature and scope of the access to justice crisis and barriers to sustainable legal access. The next event will be held on August 24.
- June 9: Leading from the Bench—Expanding Access through Regulatory Innovation explored how judicial leadership can play a critical role in expanding access to legal services and access to justice. Featuring Justice Ann Timmer of Arizona, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack of Michigan, Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of Texas, and Chief Justice Matthew Durrant of Utah, and moderated by Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis of Colorado (Ret.). Recap and video replay available here.
In 2020, IAALS and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law hosted a Speaker Series on the Future of Legal Services. Throughout the series, we brought together perspectives from the legal profession, academia, and state supreme courts—the regulators of legal services.
How people access legal services not only profoundly affects justice, but also has important implications for those who study, teach, or practice law. View the replays below of this stimulating series of discussions about changes that can help us move towards the goal of justice for all.
- Patricia Refo, President-Elect of the ABA, the world’s largest organization of lawyers, discussed how the various proposals for re-regulation of the legal profession could transform the way lawyers practice law—and what both sides of the debate have to say. Recap of event available here.
- William D. Henderson, one of the most influential thought-leaders in legal education, discussed why state supreme courts are best positioned to pioneer new regulatory models that are in the long-term interest of the public. Recap and video replay available here.
- Rohan Pavuluri (Co-Founder/CEO, Upsolve), Andrea S. Jarmon (Founder, Jarmon Law Group), and Andrew Arruda (Co-Founder/CEO, ROSS Intelligence) discussed how legal regulatory reform—and the innovative and diverse ecosystems such reform can create—can help address issues of racial injustice. Recap and video replay available here.
- Crispin Passmore (Founder/Principle, Passmore Consulting), Will Morrison (Strategic Policy Counsel, Law Society of Ontario), and Abigail Moy (Director, Legal Empowerment Network)—moderated by David Lat (Founding Editor, Above the Law)—discussed how programs and regulations in other countries have allowed for a more accessible way for people to access the justice system. Recap and video replay available here.
- Dan Rodriguez, former dean of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, discussed 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. Recap and video replay available here. Dan Rodriguez also completed a Q&A, which is available here.
- August 10, 2019, Testimony to ATILS
- September 23, 2019, Written Comments to ATILS
- Comment to the D.C. Bar regarding Rule 5.4
- March 12, 2020, Spoken Comment to ATILS
- Comment to Arizona Supreme Court regarding Rule 5.4
- Comment to Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) regarding Intermediary Connecting Services Proposal
- Comment in Support of the Utah Supreme Court Regulatory Reform Proposal
- Comment on the Task Force Report by the Chicago Bar Association/Chicago Bar Foundation Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation