Last year, we saw great strides made in the pursuit to expand access to justice across the U.S. through re-regulation. In February, both the CCJ and ABA issued resolutions urging states to consider regulatory reform; in August, the Utah Supreme Court voted to establish a first-of-its-kind regulatory sandbox for nontraditional legal services providers. And, later that same month, the Arizona Supreme Court voted to eliminate its ethics rules barring nonlawyers from having an economic interest in law firms or participating in fee-sharing, and streamlined advertising rules. Committees in California, Illinois, and New York have issued recommendations for change, while committees in Connecticut, Florida, and North Carolina continue to explore these issues. 

Entering 2021, we hope that momentum for these kinds of changes continues to build. But if we are to fully address the crisis in access to legal services—and the coming need for affordable legal services that is sure to follow in the wake of our current pandemic—we need to bring the conversation out into the public. We are a democracy. Our laws allow us to protect our rights and resolve our disputes, but what does it mean for democracy when the vast majority of the people don’t have meaningful access to the legal system? As we discuss how best to reform the delivery of legal services, in order to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality and affordable justice, it’s imperative that we give the consumers themselves a seat at the table.

Zachariah DeMeola, Director of Legal Education and the Legal Profession
January 2021

December 21: "Breaking Down the Silos: Dan Rodriguez Discussed the Need for a Less Balkanized Approach to Regulatory Reform" on IAALS' blog

January 4:  
"Will 2020 Be Hindsight? Swimming Naked in Our Justice System" on IAALS' blog

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.
IAALS is deeply saddened by the news of Paula Littlewood’s passing, and we extend our sympathies to her family, friends, and colleagues. Paula’s partnership with IAALS was long and deep, and we will sorely miss her.

Paula represents the best of the legal profession, and the very best of us. She was a champion for the profession to live up to its potential, to improve and innovate, and to address the access to justice crisis head on. 
Paula was instrumental in helping IAALS chart our path toward reforming legal education and the delivery of legal services, and she played an enormous role in getting Foundations for Practice and Unlocking Legal Regulation off the ground. Paula also lent her voice to the IAALS Board of Advisors these last several years, always urging us to be bold and determined.

Paula had great vision for the future, which now rests in our hands.
It is hard to write anything about access to justice or the rule of law or democracy without considering current events. Our capital was attacked in what might have been an attempted coup; the peaceful transition of power has been challenged and articles of impeachment sit before Congress. 
 
The American people seem to have forgotten that wethe governedare the makers of democracy; we, ourselves, hold the ultimate authority. We hire/elect public servants to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of governance but that act does not absolve us of our authority and responsibility to establish and foster a culture of democracy. The culture of democracy is one of fairness, tolerance, and justice. The rule of law is the foundation upon which fairness, tolerance, and justice are built. Those of us working in access to justice must engage with the public to remind all of us of this responsibility and authority. The access to justice crisis cannot be solved until the American People become involved. 

To engage the public, I suggest we mimic the strategies of the environmental/climate change advocates. We create and promote simple everyday actions that can support a culture of democracy. For example, like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; we promote Vote, Listen, Discuss.   
  • Vote—clearly voting is a key component of democracy, it is one way your values are made visible
  • Listenfairness and tolerance are values that fostered by listening to others; we must listen in an open-minded way to everyone; especially those that don’t agree with us, 
  • Discuss—the civil exchange of ideas is critical to creating a shared vision of the future; we require a shared vision if we are to agree on a set of common values; values which serve to bring us all together into a single community. 
I readily admit I have little skill for marketing; this slogan isn’t catchy and can, no doubt, be improved upon. Perhaps we can find a marketing firm that would help us create something better. For now, I refer you to the Fetzer Institute. The Fetzer Institute has created a series of resources and tools entitled Practicing Democracya set of spiritual practices everyone can engage in that “support the values and virtues of democracy”. 
 
This uncertain time can be an opportunity for great transformation. The access to justice movement needs to position itself within the larger context of advancing democracy. The pendulum can swing either way; I would like to see us actively pushing toward fairness, tolerance, and justice. 
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. 


Engage—Connect—Invest 
in the Future of the American Legal System


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