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Recommendations from Agenda for Access:
The American People and Civil Justice 

Final report on the Implications of the Comprehensive Legal Needs Study 

Basic to efforts that will increase the options to people seeking legal help is a fundamental rethinking of the traditional “courthouse” model of the practice of law.  This model assumes an adversarial situation, calls for legal representation at every stage in the process, and anticipates a remedy that can be found only in the justice system. [We need to] Increase the flexibility of the Civil Justice System, thereby expanding the options available to people seeking help with a legal problem.

1.      Encourage discrete-tasks delivery of legal services

2.      Make courts more approachable:  Courts can take steps that let people know the judiciary is there to serve their needs.  Flexible hours, multilingual personnel, and support services such as child care.

3.      Information services ranging from self-help publications to interactive computer systems that answer questions generate pleadings, to legal clinics and seminars on topics of recurring interest.  The objective here is to acquaint people who have legal needs with options and choices within the court setting that may be appropriate to their situation.

4.      Need to assist self-representing individuals who appear in venues such as family courts and administrative hearings without an attorney.  Many courts have instituted formal sessions to train self-representing litigants.

5.      Simplify forms and procedures regarding some transactions:  Much can be learned from the experience of several states that are simplifying routine legal matters such as uncontested divorces, visitation rights and parental support, or the probate of simple estates.  States have published clearly written forms covering a range of legal proceedings.  Publication of forms by private vendors regarding a wide range of transactions has also proliferated and has been protected against charges it constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.

6.      Lawyer Accountability:  The experience of hotlines and brief advice through prepaid legal programs is encouraging in terms of expanding access through discrete-task services while clients are protected. 

7.      To deal with malpractice concerns, one proposal is to have states provide immunity by statute or rule in cases where clients have specifically agreed that certain tasks will not be performed.

8.      Proposals regarding malpractice liability issues inherent in discrete-task services and arising when lawyers collaborate with non-lawyers in addressing clients’ needs should be examined by pertinent components of state governments.

9.      Ethics committees within the organized bar should work to ensure that professionals standards that are promulgated do not stifle development of new ways to providing legal services in which clients and lawyers are protected while the broader public interest is also served.

Reproduced from:

Agenda For Access:  The American People and Civil Justice Final Report on the Implications of the Comprehensive Legal Needs Study

Consortium on Legal Services and the Public, American Bar Association

For a copy of the complete recommendations contact the American Bar Association, 312-988-5522