Latest from IAALS Blog

Earlier this year, Paula Littlewood, IAALS Board of Advisors member and past executive director of the Washington State Bar Association, was a guest on ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels podcast. During the episode, she spoke about how she came to be an advocate for re-regulation, the need for lawyers to engage the public when it comes to regulatory changes, and Washington State’s pioneering limited legal license technician (LLLT) program. Littlewood explained that she became a champion for legal re-regulation when she served as the head of the supreme court’s regulatory agency (i.e., the state bar association) and learned about…
In 2019, sports stadiums were selling out seats, office water coolers were drawing crowds, and courthouses were holding hundreds of in-person hearings each day. Fast forward to 2020 and things look quite different. Stadiums now have recorded cheers and cardboard cutouts instead of fans, office water-cooler chat has turned into Zoom happy hours, and legal hearings look like the opening credits of The Brady Bunch. A lot has changed. We have learned to operate almost wholly online—something that many thought was impossible—and while this move has brought with it a number of positive effects, it has also exposed a digital…
A new report from IAALS showcases the innovative adaptations made around the country to best help those who cannot afford an attorney during COVID-19. IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, released a new report, Pandemic Positives: Extending the Reach of Court and Legal Services. This report showcases the innovation occurring in courts, self-help centers, legal aid centers, and law/public libraries throughout the country to address the needs of self-represented litigants in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has upended every aspect of our society, including our justice system. Courts and legal service providers…
If only 15 percent of people who wanted a haircut could receive a haircut, you’d think the hair grooming governance structure was broken, wouldn’t you? John Lund, one of my favorite legal innovators who continues to lead the way in Utah, asked me this question on a Zoom call. IAALS’ very own Zack DeMeola, also on the Zoom call (and also one of my favorite voices and forces of change in the legal space), agreed. I went on to note that, worse yet, the haircut analogy goes further. What if the limited availability of barbers was because the barbers didn’t…
On October 27, IAALS and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law co-hosted a virtual panel discussion on how legal regulations in other countries have allowed for greater accessibility to the justice system and increased innovation among service providers. As part of our Future of Legal Services Speaker Series, the panelists offered real-world examples and models that the United Sates can look to for guidance, including how the regulations work in practice and whether there is evidence that these different regulatory structures can make a difference here as well. Panelists included legal industry leaders and access to justice advocates…
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on businesses, forcing nearly 80,000 small business to permanently close their doors from March 1 through July 25 of 2020, and resulting in lost investments, jobs, and household income. When small businesses (firms with less than 500 employees) make up 44 percent of all economic activity, widespread and simultaneous business closures have an immediate and significant impact on the economy and long-lasting negative implications on economic recovery. In response to the aftermath—both current and prospective—caused by COVID-19 to businesses throughout the state of Rhode Island, the state’s Superior Court implemented a…
In September, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences released Civil Justice for All, a report stemming from their Making Justice Accessible project. The report examines the United States’ ever-widening access to justice gap and offers seven recommendations geared toward closing it. Americans, especially those with low income, face a slew of hardships related to housing, employment, debt, and healthcare—all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And despite the fact that there are “legal protections intended to safeguard against these problems,” they are too often “difficult to exercise, or hidden to anyone who does not have…
Each year, tens of thousands sit for the bar exam nationwide, a final step in demonstrating that new law graduates possess the minimum competence needed to practice law. What exactly minimum competence is, however, has never actually been defined—not by the bar examiners or the legal profession at large. This critical flaw has gone unaddressed for a hundred years, making it impossible to know whether the exam actually assesses what it purports to assess—a glaring flaw for an exam that is supposed to protect the public from unqualified lawyers. This unsupported claim of protection is increasingly distressing when we recall the droves…
We must look back to move forward, so the saying goes. Courts face a backlog of civil cases that have been placed on hold since mid-March because of state and local shelter-in-place orders, court closures, or other pandemic-related concerns. Cases filed pre-COVID-19 will soon vie for court attention along with a predicted wave of case filings stemming from the pandemic, such as evictions, debt collections, and business litigation matters. State courts must also adapt to physical court closures and the overall general unpredictable nature of the pandemic. While state courts see exponentially more civil cases filed than federal courts, both…
On Tuesday, October 20, IAALS hosted a virtual Rebuilding Justice Award Celebration after our annual gala was postponed in April. Instead of gathering for dinner as we normally do, we were joined by people from all over the country and world via Zoom to honor both Margaret Hagan and the late Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady for their leadership and innovation in advancing our justice system. The two have inspired the movement toward user-centric reforms in family courts—leading to better pathways for families nationwide. Sam Walker, IAALS’ interim executive director, opened the event with a quote from Martin…
IAALS is pleased to announce that Carla van Dongen, Vice President – Counsel for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, will chair our Business Leadership Network (BLN). In this role, she will also serve on IAALS’ Board of Advisors as liaison for BLN. In addition, Van Dongen already serves on our US Justice Needs Advisory Committee, which has helped guide the development of our justice needs surveys of people and businesses across all corners of the country in an effort to close the justice gaps in our society. We are thrilled to have Van Dongen even more involved in…
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world and infected millions. In the United States, we are inching toward 7.5 million cases, with over 200,000 lives lost. Alongside the impacts on health and human livelihood, the pandemic has delivered a global economic crisis, with the World Bank predicting “the deepest global recession in eight decades.” In the United States, we have seen a health and economic crisis at a scale and speed “unprecedented in the history of the United States.” Further still, the pandemic has created a crisis in our justice system. Unlike a natural disaster, government shutdown, or cuts…
Election Day is less than a month away, and although much of the focus has been on the presidential race, down-ballot categories—such as those for judges—are just as important. Judges are vital to our communities and our democracy. It is essential that the public is not only informed about a judge’s performance on the job, but that the public also has a say in whether or not the judge stays on the bench. That’s why Our Courts Colorado, a nationally recognized organization that informs the understanding of the state and federal courts, has released a series of PSAs encouraging…
IAALS has launched a new award to recognize innovators who have made significant impacts early in their legal careers toward making the American legal system work better for everyone who needs it and everyone who is a part of it: the Alli Gerkman Legal Visionary Award. The award is in honor of Alli Gerkman, who was a leader in national legal education and legal profession reform, her local and larger legal community, and here at IAALS. Through her work, she transformed the way our nation thinks about legal education and the role lawyers play in our society, and her…
Courts across the country, from small municipal courts to the Supreme Court, have made giant strides in the use of technology in the wake of COVID-19. Historically slow to embrace technology, courts have shown unprecedented flexibility in the past six months; video- and teleconference hearings, text notifications, virtual juries, chatbots, and other technologies have become staples in some courts rather than exceptions. Yet once the pandemic is over, will it stay that way? The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) are urging state court officials to continue this momentum, and they have recommended…
Many states are exploring regulatory reform as a means through which to drive innovation in the legal services sector (and hopefully to increase access to justice(1) more broadly). While approaches differ considerably by state, through their efforts, each state is balancing access to justice realities against the need to protect the public. When it comes to discussions on how best to strike this balance, though, the public is rarely involved. As Jim Sandman notes in a recent Talk Justice podcast episode: “Often when issues about proposed regulatory changes implicate protection of the public, we look to lawyers to speak for the…