21st Century Law in Michigan—The Future is Now

21st Century Practice Task Force Work Product 1.4MB

 

Five Key Problems and Our Keys to Solving Them


THE PROBLEM A Dysfunctional Legal Marketplace

Although lawyers are ethically committed to access to justice for all and support legal aid programs for the poor, quality legal services have never been available to all those who need them. Today, legal services delivered in traditional ways are becoming more unaffordable for large segments of the population. Even people who can afford legal services are often afraid of the cost and confused about whether they need legal help, what kind of legal help they might need, and how to find it. Despite a significant percentage of lawyers who are unemployed or underemployed, we are falling further behind in our goal of access to justice for all.

THE VISION
Transparent, accessible, and user-friendly Internet access to reliable legal information that encourages confidence in the value of legal services and provides connection to high quality, affordable legal services, plus on-the-ground resources that help those in need, extending a continuum of legal help to all who need it.

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THE PROBLEM Significant Issues for New Lawyers, New Challenges for Experienced Lawyers

Too many new lawyers are saddled with substantial debt, face employment challenges, and may lack the crucial "practice-ready" skills they need to serve clients competently in the absence of effective mentoring. Many veteran lawyers lack familiarity with the technology needed to take advantage of case management tools and systems for delivering legal services more affordably. Current Michigan lawyer regulation does not stress the need for practice skills at the beginning of a legal career, nor effectively incentivize updating skills and knowledge throughout a legal career.

THE VISION
More affordable and practice-oriented legal training that gives graduates the skills they need to begin to earn a living and serve the public upon admission to the bar. More opportunities for new lawyers to initiate their practices through service to low-income and "modest means" clients. More training and resources for all lawyers on the ethical, appropriate application of technology to the delivery and marketing of legal services. A post-admission continuing education system that encourages professional development throughout each lawyer's career through innovative delivery and incentives.

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THE PROBLEM Inefficient & Overly Complex Legal Processes

The legal profession has been reticent to modify litigation processes, court rules, and business practices in ways that may deliver more efficient and inexpensive solutions to legal problems. The organized bar and regulators have not taken up the challenge of creating, evaluating, testing, or implementing significant changes that utilize existing business process tools and technologies to create a more efficacious system.

THE VISION

Simplify unnecessarily complex legal processes and court procedures, adopt appropriate cost-saving technology, and apply business process analysis. Provide efficient, effective, customer service in an accessible technological environment that will ensure convenient, timely, appropriate access to courts and other legal processes and information. Engage in constant innovation and evaluation.

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THE PROBLEM Regulatory Hurdles

In part due to the global marketplace and developing technologies, many legal problems are intertwined with issues beyond a lawyer's or law firm's expertise. In such circumstances, legal problems are best addressed in collaboration with nonlaw professionals. Nonlawyers are currently providing services addressing legal problems, most notably via the online marketplace, without any regulation. The traditional law firm business model and current regulatory systems and rules are ineffective in fostering collaboration while protecting the public.

THE VISION
Modernized, more transparent, adaptable, and accountable regulation of the legal profession that is responsive to both the risks and benefits of the use of existing and emerging technology and new business models for legal service delivery. Modernized rules of professional conduct that apply to the use of technology and the evolving marketplace, and are clear, coherent, and consistent. A state bar association that members can count on to help them navigate the rapidly-changing legal marketplace and deliver services to their clients most cost-effectively, consistent with long-standing ethical standards that protect the public.

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THE PROBLEM Cultural Resistance to Innovation

The legal system does not have an innovative orientation. In a time when technological innovations are transforming the marketplace, the absence of an innovative culture puts the legal profession and the ability to deliver quality legal services at risk. The 21st Century Practice Task Force was created to address that problem by developing a comprehensive set of changes, from the practical and immediately achievable to cutting edge initiatives. Staying ahead of externally driven changes to create the best possible future requires an ongoing, permanent commitment. The changes on the horizon are profound, particularly with the advent of artificial intelligence applications to legal processes. The rules and processes of the legal system will need to adapt at a much faster pace to take advantage of the new efficiencies while preserving quality. Jurisdictions that embrace the need for change and are most adept at adapting their rules and processes will not only be leaders in enhancing access to justice for their citizens but will also provide advantages to their business community and the jurisdiction's economic competitiveness.

THE VISION
Take advantage of the momentum for innovation already underway in Michigan, expanding the ongoing transformation of the court system through increased use of technology, triage, mediation, alternative dispute resolution, and the initiation of online dispute resolution. Accelerate changes in court rules and the rules of professional conduct to ensure continuous public protection and system improvement, taking advantage of service-enhancing technological developments. Establish Michigan as a leader in the ethical modernization of the delivery of legal services.

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