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Finding A Path Forward To Regulate The Legal Industry

Law360 – Gerald Knapton“Some important changes for the legal profession are underway and a sea change seems possible. The most important decision to be made is whether lawyers will continue to regulate themselves or if a new supervisory body — probably some form of an independent, nonprofit regulator with delegated authority over some or all legal services — will come into being, as happened in the U.K. in 2010. The changes are being forced by this truth: A client of substantial means can get very good legal representation for civil or criminal matters. The same is not true for civil legal problems of the less wealthy or poor. This group is large, better informed and unwilling to have their rising level of expectations ignored. The Problem – The problem facing our profession is devising a system that helps those with common but smaller legal problems with clear links to the dimensions of poverty, including access to economic assets (e.g., inheritance, marital assets), income (e.g., alimony/child support, labor disputes) and housing (e.g., landlord-tenant disputes), as well as those that would have negative health impacts (e.g., domestic violence, assault). A large portion, perhaps 86%, of civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans receive little or no help, according to data from the Utah Work Group on Regulatory Reform. A Path Forward – Most of those unhelped are internet literate to some degree. The Utah working group reported that at least 88% of adults across demographic groups have internet access, three-quarters have searched for online help with the most common being a search for forms and information about a legal problem they are experiencing. When asked, a majority want ownership of law firms to be by lawyers, but only 46% say that about a legal advice website…”

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