ABA’s Dismal Report: Future of Legal Services

The American Bar Association’s annual meeting has just finished in San Francisco—and there’s much chatter in tech land about its “Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States.” Today’s PinHawk Law Technology Daily Digest (Jeffrey Brandt) and yesterday’s PinHawk Librarian News Digest (Constance Ard) cite Robert Ambrogi‘s Above The Law column, “This Week in Legal Tech: ABA Panel Calls for Broad Changes in Legal Services.”

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Ambrogi, a Massachusetts lawyer and journalist, also writes for the ABA Journal and other outlets.

The report, he says, “provides a frank, thorough and frequently bleak assessment of the state of legal services and the legal profession’s complicity in inhibiting innovation—while also heralding the promise of emerging delivery models and technologies to bring about change.” But “the commission hedges its recommendations on some of the key issues facing the profession, particularly nonlawyer ownership of law firms, nonlawyers giving legal advice, and the regulation of companies such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer that use technology to deliver legal services.”

Ambrogi provides a nuanced analysis, noting that the report is divided into two main sections: 1) setting out its findings and 2) recommendations.

“It’s findings should be required reading  for every legal prefessional for the picture they paint of the failures of the legal system,” he says, among them:

• “Most people living in poverty and the marjority of moderate-income people do not receive the legal help they need.
• Funding for legal services is woefully inadequate and pro bono alone cannot fill the gap.
• People at all income levels often do not obtain effective legal assistance either because of insufficient financial resources or lack of knowledge about legal issues.
• The vast number of underrepresented litigants adversely impacts all litigants, even those with lawyers.

Catching Up: News & Opinions of Interest to the CodeX Gang
Robert Ambrogi


“Part of the blame for this state of affairs lies squarely on the legal profession, the commission says, finding that the profession’s resistance to change hinders innovations,” writes Ambrogi. “‘The legal profession continues to resist change, not only to the public’s detriment but also its own.'”

Brandt also cited Lisa Needham and Kevin O’Keefe’s comments:

> “Many different organizations are experimenting with technology to provide innovative ways to deliver legal services, but the legal profession is highly resistant to change,” said Needham on Lawyerist.com: “A Quick Look at the ABA’s Report on the Future of Legal Services.

> Said O’Keefe, “What struck me… was that none of the 28 members of the comission were technology entrepreneurs who founded, guided or participated in legal technology companies or startups focused on the delivery of legal services.” on Real Lawyers Have Blogs: “No legaltech entrepreneurs on ABA Commission on Future of Legal Services. “

• “Final Report: Commission on the Future of Legal Services,” ABA, 2016

• “This Week in Legal Tech: Showdown at the ABA Over Free Law and Fee Sex.” (Above The Law, Ambrogi)

• Back In The Race: Can Alternative Legal Services Provides Force The ABA to Change the Non-Lawyer Ownership Rules? by Shannon Achimalbe, Above The Law.

• James “Jim” Sandman, president, Legal Services Corp. interview:  (Bloomberg Big Law Business)

• “10 Ways to Accelerate the Adoption of Legal Tech” (Jim Sandman), Law Technology Now, Legal Talk Network.

• “Jim Sandman’s Justice Game Plan,”https://law.stanford.edu/2016/05/24/jim-sandman-justice-game-plan/,   Zach Warren, Legaltech News

Monica Bay is a Fellow at CodeX, and a member of the California bar and the ABA. She and Ambrogi co-host the podcast, Law Technology Now [Legal Talk Network] and are both are columnists at Above The Law. Twitter: @MonicaBay Email: mbay@codex.stanford.edu

Cover Image: Clipart.com