The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) is taking a stance in support of regulatory innovation. During its Midyear Meeting last week, the CCJ adopted Resolution 2, which urges its members to consider regulatory innovations that could improve the delivery of legal services while protecting the public. The resolution recognizes the difficulties Americans face when accessing quality and affordable legal services. Moreover, while traditional solutions to reducing the justice gap, such as increased civil legal aid funding, pro bono work, and court assistance programs, have helped, they aren’t likely to solve the problem alone. The CCJ points to the efforts…
One of my favorite guilty pleasures is The Great British Bake Off. It’s a perfect blend of quintessentially British stoicism and quiet drama, and very much reminds me of home.   In addition to creating nostalgia for desserts that contain enough sugar to make Willy Wonka blush, it has also introduced me to the art of complementary flavors and the importance of balance and measure. But more on that later, as the more astute among you may have already spotted the tortured analogy between my introduction and the title keywords “blended learning.”   What is blended learning?  It’s likely you’ve heard of, and possibly experienced, blended learning. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, blended learning is typically defined as a learning experience that blends online and in–person delivery. This may include eLearnings, webinars, classroom-based instruction, and workshops.  Blended learning is most prevalent in the education sector, where the curriculum…
Justice Robert R. Thomas has announced his retirement from the Illinois Supreme Court effective Feb. 29, 2020. Justice Thomas established the Special Supreme Court Committee on Civility in 2001, which went on to become the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. He currently serves as the Supreme Court Liaison to the Commission. After retiring from the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas will join the Power Rogers law firm where he will practice with his son. The Court has appointed Second District Appellate Court Justice Michael J. Burke to fill Justice Thomas’ seat effective March 1, 2020, through Dec. 5, 2022. “On…
The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) has published for public comment an Intermediary Connecting Services Proposal (proposal). The ARDC proposal recognizes long-standing market inefficiencies, in which potential clients often don’t consider lawyer services for matters that could benefit from legal assistance, and in which lawyers also don’t benefit from those opportunities. The proposal also acknowledges major factors that may be contributing to market inefficiencies. These include a proliferation of for-profit services that connect lawyers to potential clients; ambiguity and uncertainty in the Rules of Professional Conduct around whether lawyers may participate in those services; and state ethics…
A recent opinion drafted by the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Committee on Codes of Conduct advised federal judges against formal affiliation with the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society (ACS). This refines past guidance permitting membership. Additionally, the 2020 opinion states that judges should monitor the activities of the American Bar Association (ABA) to ensure membership remains consistent with the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. While the Committee views the Federalist Society and the ACS as law-related organizations, they both support distinct ideologies. The Federalist Society describes itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians…
The annual ABA Midyear Meeting kicks off next week in Austin. From February 12-17, ABA members and other legal professionals will converge on the Texas state capital to discuss issues, regulations, and trends shaping the future of the legal profession.   The annual event will feature several hundred governance and business meetings, CLE programs, awards celebrations, and networking events attended by hundreds of legal professionals from across the U.S. Attendees are eligible to earn up to 11.75 Continuing Legal Education credit hours through programming at the event.  Access to Justice Divide  This year, rural America will take center stage at the ABA Midyear Meeting in the presentation “Legal Deserts – How do Bars Fill the Gap?” Texas…
Maria Berger is the founder of Berger Law Firm, LLC. What’s your primary practice area? Family law, including mediations. How has your practice evolved over the last few years? I began mediating family law cases about five years ago. The perspective I have gained from being a mediator has really helped my overall ability to problem-solve for my family clients and has made my practice much more satisfying. I have also expanded the practice with the addition of another full-time attorney, and I really enjoy having day-to-day interaction with a colleague. From your perspective, how can lawyers adapt to the…
Sometimes, in order to find a solution, barriers in the legal profession need to be analyzed. As lawyers, we tend to focus on barriers. How is that going to happen if X and Y are true? This is a potential problem, so how would that solution work? These are questions likely heard between a lawyer and their client. We learn to think like this in law school and it continues throughout our practice. This barrier-based thinking often serves us well as lawyers. It helps us see potential pitfalls for our clients. However, this type of thinking can also lead to…
This week, the New Mexico Supreme Court endorsed proposals to expand civil legal services in the state, particularly to lower- and middle-income residents and those living in rural areas. The proposals were based on recommendations from the New Mexico Supreme Court-established Ad Hoc Licensed Legal Technicians Workgroup, which recently released an Innovation to Address the Access to Justice Gap report. The report details the state’s stark attorney demographics, which are similar to those reported in Illinois. Lawyers are unevenly distributed across the state, they’re literally or virtually absent in rural counties, and they’re aging and not being replaced by newer…
In December 2019, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released its annual Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms. Across the board, progress for women and people of color is, to quote the report commentary, “at a rate so slow as to almost seem imperceptible at times.” Additionally, a recent report from the American Bar Foundation (ABF) Scholars found that bias in the legal workplace continues to be widespread. It’s been over two years since the advent of the 1-hour of mandatory diversity & inclusion (D&I) CLE for lawyers in Illinois. One could argue that there simply hasn’t been…
The ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession will host a Spring Summit for Advancing Women in the Law on Tuesday, March 3, at the Dirksen United States Courthouse in Chicago. The Summit will bring together influential leaders from the federal judiciary, law firms, and corporate legal department to discuss the current landscape for women in law and explore takeaways from new research on gender bias and the courts. The Women’s Bar Association of Illinois is also sponsoring the event. “The Spring Summit for Advancing Women in the Law will provide a platform for legal and judicial leaders to address…
Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court announced a plan to expand remote access to court information and documents. The new Remote Access Policy (RAP), which took effect on Jan. 1, 2020, is being tested by a subset of Illinois licensed attorneys that were selected by the Illinois State Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Technology. The RAP will be tested during a trial period using the statewide re:SearchIL portal. Prior to June 30, 2020, an initial review of the RAP will be conducted to determine if expansion to judicial partners and the public is appropriate. Since 2002, the Illinois…
Last year, I wrote about the disappearing rural lawyer. In Illinois, more lawyers are hanging their law firm shingle in urban areas. This isn’t just an Illinois trend, it’s happening across the U.S. For instance, in Illinois, roughly 7,000 lawyers across 95 counties outside of Chicagoland serve 35% of the state’s population, or approximately 4.5 million people. This breaks down to a 1:700 lawyer-resident ratio. In The Disappearing Rural Lawyer part I, I examined initiatives that are addressing access to justice concerns in rural America. In Part II, I analyze broad systematic opportunities that the profession could embrace to…
The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism is pleased to announce that early bird registration is open for its fifth annual The Future Is Now: Legal Services conference. The conference will be held on Thursday, April 23, 2020, at Venue SIX10 in Chicago. The Future Is Now will feature 11 industry-leading speakers tackling pressing topics in the legal profession, the judiciary, and organizational leadership. In a series of TED-like talks and interactive townhall discussions, speakers will provide practical tips for improving the practice of law and discuss trends that are reshaping the profession. For the first time, the 2020 conference…
Happy 2020! A new year and a new decade have arrived. Have you set any resolutions for the year ahead? If so, I have some bad news. Eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. However, all hope isn’t lost. The success rate improves if you set small, realistic goals. Therefore, I’ve laid out three manageable goals for lawyers in 2020 that can improve your practice and the profession. Prioritize wellness First in my goals for lawyers in 2020 is prioritizing wellness. Over the past year, I’ve presented on lawyer well-being to audiences across the state. These presentations help…
The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism is pleased to announce that Executive Director Jayne Reardon has been named to the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center’s (LTRC) 2020 Women of Legal Tech list. Reardon was one of 20 women selected by the LTRC from almost 200 nominations.  “I’m honored to be recognized by the LTRC, alongside these innovative women who’re pushing the profession forward,” said Reardon. “As changes in technology and globalization transform industries, it’s vital that the legal profession keeps up. We must adopt practices that not only enable lawyers to leverage technology to deliver improved legal services, but also allow lawyers to make a sustainable living. I thank the LTRC for including me in its 2020 class.”  The LTRC provides legal technology resources…