The access-to-justice gap was already perilously wide before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March of last year. Now, with tens of thousands of Americans dealing with legal issues stemming from the pandemic, we cannot afford to waste time. Not only do we need significantly more legal services providers, we need more types of legal services providers who can perform a variety of tasks and address a spectrum of needs.
 
Fortunately, states such as Arizona and Utah are already experimenting with independent paraprofessionals and lay advocates—with promising early results. And, evidence from places such as Ontario and England, who already have similar types of service providers, suggests these individuals are capable of offering discrete and specialized help that, though limited in scope, is highly effective and poses no greater risk to consumers than lawyers.  Likewise, the VIISTA program at Villanova University is training students to become lay advocates in the immigration area, equipped to serve migrants and refugees, offering a model on how we can provide quality education, training, and certification among new and different tiers of legal services beyond the traditional full-service attorney. You can read more about our featured guest, Michele Pistone, who created and runs VIISTA, below. Clearly, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to the possibilities that regulatory reform provides—and they couldn’t come at a more critical time.

Zack DeMeola, Director of Legal Education and the Legal Profession
August 2021
August 24: "Legal Profession Must Look Beyond Lawyers for Innovation" on Law360

August 23
: "LawNext: Reregulation of Legal Services – A Panel of Five Leading Experts Discuss" on the LawNext podcast


August 19: "Changing the stakes: how evolving law firm ownership rules could (or could not) re-shape the legal industry" on Reuters

August 19: "What 'Protecting the Public' Really Means" on Slaw

August 17: "What Attorneys Need to Know About Florida's Law Lab" on Legal Karma's podcast

August 17: "Potential Calif. Sandbox Continues To Stir Debate" on Law360 Pulse

August 16: "LegalZoom is pursuing an alternative business structure license in Arizona" in the ABA Journal

August 16: "Deloitte Not Ready to Practice Law in U.S., Tax Unit Chief Says" in Bloomberg Law

August 13GPSolo July/August 2021: Reregulation of the Law
August 6: "We need a new civil right" on CNN

August 8: "Canada Joins U.S. in Nonlawyer Legal Service Ownership Tests" in Bloomberg Law

August 4: "NCBP 2021: Setting Standards and Measuring Your Bar’s Success" on the On the Road podcast

August 4: "NCBP 2021: Mandatory Bars and Regulatory Sandboxes" on the On the Road podcast

August 3: "i4J Joins University of Utah Eccles School of Business" on i4J

July 30: "Fearing the Sandbox? What to Learn From Utah About Nonlawyer Investment" in the Daily Business Review

July 30: "The legal regulation revolution" in Law21

July 30: "Regulatory Sandbox Advisory Council – Call for Applications" on the Law Society of Ontario

July 27: "Law firm innovation increasing, but funding and scalability issues hindering new game-changing developments" on the Solicitors Regulation Authority

July 23: "5 Recent Developments That Could Lead to a Transformed US Legal Market" on Law.com

July 23: "Meet VIISTA: The Program Training Non-Lawyers to Represent Migrants in Court" in Ms. Magazine

July 22: "Pioneers of Progress: Justice Constandinos 'Demo' Himonas" on KJZZ
From the Sandbox
Some highlights from the latest activity report out of Utah's Office of Legal Services Innovation
  • 29 authorized entities 
    • 4 low risk
    • 11 low/moderate
    • 13 moderate
    • 1 high
  • 2,000 unduplicated clients
  • Varied types of services22.2% end-of-life planning
    • 21% business (e.g., contracts, entity incorporation)
    • 14.9% marriage/family
    • 9.3% financial (e.g., bankruptcy, debt collection)
    • 8.7% accident/injury
    • 24% other (real estate, housing, public benefits, criminal expungement, etc.)
  • 1 harm related complaint for every 1200 legal services delivered
Visit our Knowledge Center to track what's happening around the country and the world when it comes to legal regulation, as well as submit information and sign up for notifications.
I am deeply motivated to expand access to legal services through adding allied professionals into the legal services ecosystem. After speaking and writing about the application of learning outcomes, assessment tools, course design and online technologies in legal education for years, I decided to bring my ideas to life by designing a new educational model from scratch.  In August 2020, I launched VIISTA (Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates) as the first university-based certificate program to train students to become immigrant advocates qualified to apply to the Department of Justice for accreditation to represent immigrants in immigration court and before the Department of Homeland Security.  In its first year, VIISTA has attracted students from 31 states, from hugely diverse professional and personal backgrounds, and more than 200 certificates have been granted.  I see this as a way to expand access to justice, by using online technologies and a deep commitment to approach learning from the student’s perspective, I think we can revolutionize how and to whom law is taught.  At a time when at least 14 states are experimenting with expanding licensing models and legal empowerment, my sincere hope is that this work can serve as a proof of concept modeling a way forward to expand legal training as an access to justice tool. 
    IAALS is a national, independent research center dedicated to facilitating continuous improvement and advancing excellence in the American legal system. Our mission is to forge innovative and practical solutions to problems within the American legal system. 


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