A task force looking into problems of people going without legal help is making sweeping recommendations to address concerns.
The Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation officially released its final report and recommendations in October after formally submitting them to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Dozens of lawyers and legal professionals from diverse backgrounds across the legal community in Illinois and beyond have worked over the past year to develop a comprehensive series of recommendations for regulatory reform.
The report recommends a series of changes to modernize the Rules of Professional Conduct and related Supreme Court Rules, organized by three overarching task force goals:
– Helping lawyers connect to more potential clients and offer more affordable and accessible solutions
– Helping people to recognize they have a legal problem and where they can turn for affordable and reliable legal help
– Spurring more innovation in the profession and delivery of services
“Our task force has been hard at work examining how to help Illinois lawyers develop more financially viable, sustainable legal practices, particularly for solo and small firm practitioners representing the middle class and small businesses,” said Co-Chair and CBA First Vice President E. Lynn Grayson, of Nijman Franzetti LLP. The report expands opportunities to connect lawyers with clients and “offers business savvy and technical innovations to improve the delivery of legal services.”
“Disruption and change are happening all around us and we have a choice as to how we can respond.” said Justice Mary Anne Mason (ret.), task force co-chair and CBF Board secretary. “We can watch as outside forces shape the future of our profession or, instead, we can take a lead role in shaping that change for the good of our profession and the public we serve. The status quo is unacceptable, and our best course is to take charge of our profession’s future.”
“It was an honor and a pleasure to have served on the task force. It is my hope that these suggestions result in greater access to legal services by people in need, and greater efficiencies for lawyers in Illinois,” said Edwardsville resident Jim Grandone who served on the panel.
The final report comes after a month-long public comment period in July and August.
The Foundation Task Force received as many positive comments, or comments that stated the recommendations did not go far enough, as it did critiques of the recommendations for going too far. Where the task force received constructive suggestions for changes, those comments were incorporated into the final recommendations unless they already had been considered in the process.
“The balanced nature of the recommendations is illustrated by the absence of a single alternative proposal from any commentator who urges the court not to adopt our recommendations,” said Mason. “In the face of a status quo that is universally recognized as unacceptable and inimical to the promise of equal justice, any suggestion that we should refrain from acting without offering a viable alternative course of action must be rejected.”
The CBA and CBF are the first voluntary bar groups in the country to take on this challenge and deliver a report and recommendations to the Illinois Supreme Court.
“It is imperative that we identify and embrace legal innovations that have the potential to improve how Illinois lawyers practice law and their ability to better serve their clients and the public,” Grayson said.
The task force built off the good work of other task forces in Arizona, California, and Utah, taking a multi-tiered approach to its report and recommendations.
“The task force’s recommendations are comprehensive,” said Mason. “They run the gamut from high tech – allowing lawyers to harness the power of modern technology to deliver solutions to legal problems more efficiently and less expensively – to low tech – establishing community-based, in-person sources of reliable information regarding legal problems.”
People can learn more about the report and recommendations on the Foundation Task Force page on the CBF website (chicagobarfoundation.org), where they can find a copy of the full report, a list of the Task Force members and other Task Force background, and links to “pocket chats” — brief video segments discussing each of the Task Force recommendations.