Each December, the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) hosts its Midyear meeting where legal professionals from across the Land of Lincoln address rising legal issues. This year was no different. In fact, the ISBA Assembly reviewed a number of hot button issues, some of which were drawn from the Bar’s Task Force on the Future Delivery of Legal Services Futures Report published earlier this year.
At the December meeting, the ISBA Assembly formally approved the 2016 Futures Report, looking forward to what the Task Force has laid out for Illinois lawyers.
According to the Futures Report, the ultimate goal is to “educate the public and its members about the availability, benefits, and downsides of various forms of legal services. In doing so, lawyers must engage in the promotion of a healthy and efficient legal services marketplace, leveraging its unique position and status to compete with others in the legal services marketplace.”
The Futures Report laid out seven overarching objectives/tasks filled with various ideas and recommendations for the Bar to fulfill various goals for the profession:
Embrace and Capture the Latent Legal Market
- Informing the public has to become a top priority for the ISBA according to the Task Force. For example, the consumer website should include an online consumer member directory, as well as resources about the law, lawyers, and judicial processes. Aside from educating the public, the ISBA must also inform its members about new forms of providing legal services and the changing consumer preferences and needs.
Preserve and Champion Lawyer Value
- According to the Futures Report, the ISBA should increase its efforts promoting the value lawyers add to the public: quality legal information, client protections, and individualized legal advice. The Task Force recommends the ISBA use social media and other media outlets to achieve this goal.
Support Technological Efficiency
- To keep up with the ever-changing profession, lawyers need to be on top of technology. Thus, the Task Force suggested the ISBA continue offering technology related CLE courses and resources for its members. The report also recommended they offer more practice management resources as well.
Support Public Protection in the Area of Legal Services
- The Task Force recommends the ISBA continue the upkeep of its consumer site, especially its section for online comments regarding nonlawyer service providers. The ISBA should regularly collaborate with regulatory agencies, taking judicial and legislative action in the public interest if harm arises.
Monitor and Utilize Regulatory Processes
- According to the report, the organized bar should consider regulatory processes as appropriate to serve the interests of its members and the public. Thus, the ISBA should keep an eye out for developments in the alternative legal services marketplace.
Support Judicial Efficiency
- As ADR and the number of SRLs continue to climb, the organized bar should increase its transparency in the Courts. For example, the futures report suggested the ISBA continue promoting its consumer site resources to the public, as well as statewide e-filing in civil cases. In addition to this, the organized bar should also increase the usage of standardized forms and informational kiosks that assist many first-time court-goers.
Recognize and Support Adaption
- To achieve this objective, the Task Force recommended the ISBA create a ten-person Standing Committee on the Future of Legal Services. The Committee should monitor the ever-changing legal landscape here in Illinois and across the globe, offering guidance to the ISBA on best practices. It would also continue researching and potentially collaborating with nonlawyer services and business ventures. According to the futures report, every five years, the Standing Committee would also be responsible for surveying the membership’s economic, marketing, and business health.
Aside from the Task Force’s Futures Report, the ISBA Assembly considered a number of other provisions at its December meeting, including the approval of the UBE and collaborative law. The ISBA also reviewed the adoption of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), opposing its recommendation in Illinois.
As the profession continues to evolve, so too will the practices here in Illinois. As these and many more changes come our way, the Commission on Professionalism is here to inform lawyers and the public.