21st Century Task Force Unveils Vision to Transform Legal Profession

After a comprehensive, year-long process examining how the State Bar of Michigan can best serve the public and support lawyers in the face of a rapidly evolving profession, the SBM 21st Century Practice Task Force has outlined five key problems the legal profession needs to address, and visions and key innovations necessary to overcome the problems. The work product of the task force can be found on the Future Law page

The five problems outlined by the task force are:

  • A dysfunctional legal marketplace
  • Significant issues for new lawyers and new challenges for experienced lawyers
  • Inefficient and overly complex legal processes
  • Regulatory hurdles
  • Cultural resistance to innovation

The task force offers many recommendations, including the development of a comprehensive public platform linked to a full range of legal services and information; nurturing of new service delivery options, innovation; simplification and standardization of the courts; dynamic, data-driven new lawyer support; a new model for continuing legal education and professional development; innovative changes to bar admissions; and practical strategies for persistent, value-driven change.

SBM past presidents Bruce Courtade and Julie Fershtman co-chaired the task force. Three committees comprised of prominent Michigan attorneys, judges, academics, and public officials developed the work product. The three committees were 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 21st Century Practice Task Force work builds 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 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.