Program to offer Georgia Law students virtual internships with judges

Ana Maria Martinez, the head of the Georgia Latino Law Foundation, is organising a virtual judicial internship program for second-year law students who have had their summer associate internships cancelled.

The virtual internships with Georgia judges are open to all second-year students, at the state’s ABA-accredited law schools; and the deadline to apply is May 15. The program will last for five weeks and is unpaid, but will give students the experience of working in a judicial office.

Martinez, who is a staff attorney for DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez said: “It gives law students opportunities to have a substantive summer and feel like their hard work wasn’t wasted this year. It’s a way to expose them to new connections, how the court system works and perhaps a new mentor.”

Law students will be asked to commit to a minimum of 20 hours per week, which will be flexibly arranged around judges’ and attorneys’ schedules. Students will meet with judges or attorneys twice a week via Zoom.

See the full article on Law.com.

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ABA establishes group to look at the post-COVID-19 response

On the 13th May 2020, the American Bar Association announced the formation of the Coordinating Group on Practice Forward, with the aim of providing insight on the emerging challenges and opportunities confronting the legal profession and the justice system arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The coordination group will disseminate ABA resources as well as organise seminars, publications and other resources to coordinate ABA members and the profession, and to help to identify innovations and new ways of providing legal services that will arise following the COVID-19 crisis.

ABA President Judy Perry Martinez has said: “The American Bar Association is the preeminent body in the country positioned to exercise its convening power and provide the kind of thought leadership that the legal profession needs now. Adjusting to the new legal realities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a major focus for the ABA moving forward. That is why President-elect Trish Refo and I are working together to help the legal profession rethink what may or may not be essential to sustaining lawyer-client relationships, maintaining quality, ethics and competency, and assuring public protection in both the civil and criminal justice arenas.”

Ms Refo has said: “We are going to leverage the power of the entire ABA to address all of the changes to the practice of law that will arise out of this extended period of remote working. Our work will help lawyers in all practice settings to better serve their clients.”

For more information see the full article on the ABA site.

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California Bar moves towards regulatory sandbox

The Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California took a 9-2 decision on the 14th May 2020 to form a working group to look into forming a regulatory sandbox in which innovative legal service providers would be subject to fewer regulations. This could include limiting unauthorised practice of law rules, as well as removing limits on fee sharing and partnership between lawyers and non-lawyers.

The decision is a major step forward in a potential move towards innovative business structures in California, following a vote to delay the decision by the Board in March, with board members saying they needed more time to consider the proposals.

Following the board meeting, which was held over Zoom, Chairman Alan Steinbrecher (who as Chairman did not vote) said: “This is a significant step and I think it will lead to an exciting future,”.

For more information see:

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California Bar claims LegalMatch goes against attorney referral law

The State Bar of California attempted to sue LegalMatch on May the 4th 2020, for violating attorney referral laws. In November 2019 the California appeals court in Jackson v. LegalMatch found that LegalMatch, a service that matches clients with lawyers was a lawyer referral service (“LRS”) under California Business and Professions Code § 6155.

After the court’s decision, LegalMatch continued to operate, without formal registration, with the Bar claiming that LegalMatch ignored cease and desist orders, until the company had proper registration, and suggested that the company did not adequately make it clear that the service was not certified to operate in California on social media. This lead to the Bar attempting to file a temporary restraining order on the 4th May 2020.

However, during the course of the case, it became clear that LegalMatch had already submitted an application, which the Bar had not yet acted upon, leading Judge Ethan Schulman to deny the claim.

The case raises further questions about ongoing attorney referral rules both in the State and across the country, especially given the ongoing push for reform in California.

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Regulatory responses to COVID-19

We’ve put together the following list to examine different regulator responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions or best practice for the rest of the ICLR community, please do get in touch, and we will be happy to include any of these in the next newsletter.

The Nederlandse Orde Van Advocaten has released a table of all responses to the pandemic that affect those working in the sector, including alternative methods for filing claims, and updates on court closures. Link available here.

The ABA has set up a task force to help Americans and those working in the profession cope with the repercussions of the pandemic, helping to identify areas of need and mobilise volunteer lawyers. Link available here.

The Bar Council of England and Wales has collated all advice on practice and legal aid into one guide, providing an overview of best practice response to the virus for practitioners.  Link available here.

The Victorian Legal Services  Board has published updated CPD guidelines to reflect the challenges presented in attending CPD sessions for lawyers under the current circumstances. Link available here.

The Canadian Bar Association has opened up pandemic planning resources to the profession, as well as releasing a podcast to help practitioners prepare. Link available here.

The SRA have now said that they will allow individual providers to decide how to carry out assessments for Qualifying Law Degrees and the Graduate Diploma in Law. With regards to the Legal Practice course, they have said that course providers may choose how to assess elective courses, and have relaxed the supervision rules for core subjects. Full statement available here.

The Bar Standards Board have decided to cancel upcoming April examinations, with students being asked to wait until the next examination session in August. They are undergoing discussion as to how this will affect pupillage requirements, as the later assessment date, and inability to complete Inns of Court sessions will leave many students unable to demonstrate the necessary requirements to begin a pupillage. Link to statement available here.

Pennsylvania State Governor Tom Wolf has mandated that all law firms and other legal services close their physical offices, in order to limit the spread of the virus. Link available here.

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ABA approves resolution to expand access to justice

On February 17th, during its annual midyear meeting, the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates approved resolution 115, encouraging State Bars to consider innovative approaches to expanding access to justice, particularly focused around improving the affordability and quality of civil legal services.

The resolution initially proposed by the ABA Center for Innovation and supported by several standing committees of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, calls on state regulators and Bars to consider regulatory innovations that would improve accessibility, affordability and quality of civil legal services. The resolution initially faced strong opposition from several Bar Associations. However, the resolution received overwhelming support from 596 member house following the addition of a provision stating: “Nothing in this resolution should be construed as recommending any changes to any of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rule 5.4, as they relate to non-lawyer ownership of law firms, the unauthorized practice of law or any other subject.” Rule 5.4 limits sharing of legal fees with non-lawyers as well as bars non-lawyer equity in law firms.

Further details about the meeting and the resolution are available here.

The proposed resolution and report are available here, with the final resolution available here.

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Lawyer regulation reforms in the US

We recently reported on the work of the California State Bar and their proposals for regulatory reform put forward by the Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services as well as the work being done by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Testing Task Force.

In her article, ‘Re-regulating Lawyers for the 21st Century’, Jayne Reardon, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism highlights the work of a number of US State Bars, regulators and national bodies who are currently reviewing lawyer regulation issues and reflects upon how any advancements in lawyer regulation could lead to a fundamental re-structuring of the legal market.  Read the full article on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s website.

 

 

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Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program yields analytical insights

Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel started developing its lawyer self-assessment program more than two years ago, immediately after a seminal workshop on proactive, risk-based regulation at the 41st ABA National Conference of Professional Responsibility in May 2015. The new resource is a leading facet of a larger shift toward proactive management-based regulation, which aims to help lawyers practice ethically and soundly in the first place, rather than just reactively imposing discipline after lawyers make mistakes.

The new system provides the regulatory team with real time stats on lawyer engagement and self-assessed professional performance. It highlights the professional objectives scoring the highest and lowest across all respondents, providing the team with evidence to support further educational program development. The platform also has the ability to create customized lists of continuing legal education (CLE) resources based on each respondent’s own personal benchmarks and areas of need. These lists make yearly CLE planning fast and easy for lawyers, and keeps them focused on the most effective resources for their needs.

Jon White, staff attorney at the regulator, writes “The practice of law will always be challenging. The “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” approach of the proactive practice program seeks to reduce some of that stress. The self-assessments give lawyers the blueprint to build an ethical infrastructure. Lawyers, in turn, benefit from enhanced peace of mind. Clients benefit from exceptional service. It is a win-win for all.” The insights generated by the program’s data is informing the regulator where practitioners need more assistance, and where there may be weaker points in the sector as a whole. Staying ahead of this issues protects the public and strengthens the jurisdiction as a whole.

Read more about Colorado’s Lawyer Self-Assessment Program Here

 

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High Court Sends Back Bar Membership Row

The U.S. Supreme Court sent back a case challenging a nearly 30-year-old precedent allowing mandatory bar membership.

The case took aim at the county’s first mandatory bar, North Dakota’s, which required membership in the state’s bar association as a condition to practice law as early as 1921, according to the American Bar Association.

Although the state with the most lawyers as of 2017—New York—still has voluntary membership, 37 other U.S. jurisdictions have “unified” or “integrated” bars, which require bar membership, according to ABA statistics.

Arnold Fleck, a North Dakota lawyer, says the requirement violates his First Amendment rights. He asked the court to overturn a nearly 30-year-old precedent holding otherwise.

The Supreme Court said in 1990 that mandatory membership schemes pass constitutional muster so long as they don’t require members to “finance political and ideological activities with which” an attorney disagrees.

Read the full article from Bloomberg Here

Case: Fleck vs. Wetch

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Indiana professional rules limit lawyers’ speech about judges

The Indiana Lawyer has released an article tackling one of the legal sector’s most contentious issues – Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2(a), which governs lawyers’ speech about judges. Lawyers, it seems, don’t want to address the topic for fear of being perceived as speaking critically of the judiciary, while judges seemingly don’t want to discuss situations where they feel they have been unfairly criticized. According to an Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor, the unease surrounding Rule 8.2(a) is not a matter of respect, but rather a matter of lawyer fear. Professor Margaret Tarkington takes a deep dive into caselaw surrounding lawyer speech and related discipline and concludes that rules similar to 8.2(a) can cause attorneys to stay tight-lipped even in the face of judicial misconduct.

Read the full article from Indiana Lawyer Here

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