New Task Force to Tackle Challenges of 21st Century Legal Practice

3/5/15

State Bar of Michigan President Thomas C. Rombach has appointed distinguished legal leaders to a new 21st Century Practice Task Force to recommend how the State Bar can best serve the public and support lawyers' professional development in a rapidly changing legal marketplace. The task force will also look at the potential for modernizing Michigan's attorney regulation in response to those changes. SBM Past Presidents Bruce Courtade, of Grand Rapids, and Julie Fershtman, of Farmington Hills, will co-chair the task force. Other members of the task force include Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly, Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Kevin Cotter, the deans of all five Michigan law schools, former American Bar Association President Robert Hirshon, and former Judge James Redford, Governor Snyder's legal counsel.

"The willingness of such exceptional leaders to serve on the task force reflects the growing awareness in Michigan of how technology and globalization are profoundly changing the world in which lawyers practice," Rombach said. He emphasized that the task force will focus on recommending concrete, practical steps to keep Michigan a leader in promoting improvements in the delivery of legal services.

The 21st Century Practice Task Force will build on the work of the State Bar of Michigan Judicial Crossroads Task Force. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. has credited the 2011 Crossroads report with making valuable contributions to the transformational, cost-saving changes now underway in Michigan's court system at the direction of the Michigan Supreme Court.

The task force will work for a year and release a public report in March of 2016. Meetings of the task force will be held in open session so that State Bar members and the public can follow its work and offer comment through the 21st Century Practice Task Force website.

The task force recommendations will be developed from the work of three committees comprised of prominent Michigan attorneys, judges, academicians, and public officials. The three committees are Affordability of Legal Services: New Tools for Breaking through the Access Barrier; Building a 21st Century Practice: Developing and Maintaining Professional Excellence in a Dynamic Marketplace; and Modernizing the Regulatory Machinery: Building Resilience and Capacity in the Delivery of Legal Services.

The foundation for the new task force was laid in November of 2014 at a forum on the future of legal services convened by the State Bar in Lansing. The forum was held in conjunction with the American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services. ABA President William Hubbard told those gathered at the forum that the justice system is at an inflection point, and he challenged the legal profession to develop a new model to meet the needs of the underserved while enhancing the opportunities for lawyers to thrive in their practices.