Victorian warning on lawyers involvement in crowdfunding activities

Lawyers in the state of Victoria have been warned about their public conduct. Fiona McLeay’s December 2021 report sets out the importance of balance between access to justice and acting in a client’s best interests.

The report reminds lawyers to think carefully before advising communities to pursue cases which will likely not be successful in court or are not in the pursuant best interests. Crowdfunding got a special mention, noting it can improve access to justice by bridging the funding gap but must be balanced against what is in the best interests of those receiving the funding. Especially if the crowdfunding is being run by the client’s lawyer.

Read more here.

State Bar of California’s consultation on new paraprofessional licence closes

The consultation, which closed on 12th January, focused on the potential licensing of a new legal service provider, the paraprofessional. It is hoped this new legal qualification will improve access to justice by creating a new professional to provide routine legal services at a more affordable rate.

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How Consumer-Focused Innovations in the Legal Services Market Invigorate Access to Justice

Abstract:

The Legal Services Act 2007 was devised to effectuate a wide ranging reform in favour of access to justice, bringing about profound transformations to the legal services market. The essay examines the various mechanisms contrived to operate in the consumers’ interest, as well as the impact of technology disruption on the private and business segments of the legal services market.

Kim, Habbine Estelle, (2016). How Consumer-Focused Innovations in the Legal Services Market Invigorate Access to Justice.

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The Law Society of Saskatchewan Canada has issued an article entitled ‘Better connecting consumers of legal services and alternative legal providers’

The Law Society of Saskatchewan Canada has issued an article written by the Future of Legal Services committee entitled ‘Better connecting consumers of legal services and alternative legal providers’ to highlight access to justice information.

The article focuses on how legal information can help and the different ways lawyers can be more transparent about billing practices and services when communicating them to clients.

Read the full article here.

Law Society of Alberta continues Lawyer Referral Service review

In 2020 the Law Society of Alberta took the Lawyer Referral Service back in house, and launched a survey to gather the input of key stakeholders regarding the service. 

After many years being run by Calgary Legal Guidance, in March 2020, the Law Society took LRS back in-house. This was partly to better understand how the service meets the needs of the public. Through the first year of in-house operation at the Law Society, more than 17,000 Albertans contacted LRS and were matched with lawyers who participate in the program.

This year, the Law Society of Alberta launched a survey seeking input from clients who had used the service, as well as lawyers who participate in the LRS. This brought back some positive results, suggesting clients who had used the service had often retained the services of the lawyer they were put in contact with. The detailed results of this survey will help the Law Society of Alberta in its goal of improving access to justice and will be followed by a roundtable in November to discuss the operation of the LRS and how it can be improved.

Read the full story here.

California Bar launches access to justice consultation

The State Bar of California is seeking to solve the issue of access to justice many residents suffer given the high cost of legal services, by establishing a new paraprofessional. They estimate 85% of legal problems received no or inadequate help. It is hoped a new more affordable legal professional would go some way to mitigating this issue, which is faced not just in California but across the whole country.

This consultation with the public is aimed at informing them about what this paraprofessional would be, described as “to a lawyers what a nurse practitioner is to a doctor.” Members of the public are invited to feedback their thoughts until January 2022.

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New Zealand sees first pro-bono legal portal open

The New Zealand Ministry of Justice has funded NZ’s first pro-bono portal, connecting lawyers with people in need of legal assistance. Te Ara Ture is New Zealand’s first pro-bono legal service aimed at helping Kiwi’s who cannot normally afford to enlist the help of legal professionals. The software takes referrals from the community and through the portal matches legal matters with legal service providers.

So far 200 lawyers have signed up to receive referrals, but this number is expected to grow and the portal matures. Many of the referrals are coming through from community law centres as the portal grows in popularity.

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ABA issues guidance focusing on client language differences

The American Bar Association has issued a formal opinion to guide lawyers in situations when they and their clients do not share a common language. This guidance also covers when the client has a physical condition, such as a hearing, speech or vision disability, that might impede communications. The guidance revolves around a lawyers duty to communicate under Model Rule 1.4 and competence under Model Rule 1.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

This opinion outlines certain steps lawyers can take, including the use of an interpreter. It also makes clear that “it is the lawyer’s affirmative responsibility” to ensure the client understands the lawyer’s communications, and that the lawyer understands the client’s communications.

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Further fund award is an opportunity to connect innovative services with those who need legal help

The SRA have won a grant from the latest round of Regulators Pioneer Fund (RPF) to help connect those using new legal technologies with those who need their services.

They have been awarded £167,856 from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to be used to create a new network where regulators, expert research institutions and local government can work together to improve legal access within local communities. The SRA aim to do this by supporting, testing and promoting new and emerging legal technology.

The project will involve partners from a number of universities in the West of the country and Wales, as well as the Information Commissioner’s Office and the West of England Combined Authority. Communities around Swansea and Bristol will be engaged to test new developments.

Initially the project will focus on discovering what innovations are out there and the best way to connect them to those in need.

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Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner releases new guide on innovative pricing models

New research undertaken by the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner (LSB), through both their complaints and auditing process, has found that a major consumer complaint has been the billing model adopted by lawyers. With many lawyers opting for an hourly rater rather than a value based price. The LSB has found that this creates uncertainty as well as lowering productivity and discouraging the use of products to improve efficiency, for example, technology. As well as this the model creates a pressure on lawyers to hit billing targets, negatively impacting lawyer wellbeing.

Client research has also suggested that this is likely to cause access to justice issues, with many clients avoiding hiring a lawyer due to fears that the costs may spiral and leave them worse off, creating a perception of poor value for money in the legal services market.

The LSB has therefore released research and analysis into two pricing models, the agreed price model (whereby the service is commissioned at a fixed price) and the subscription model (whereby clients pay a recurring stable fee, in exchange for work whenever they need it). The research looks at the benefit of these models in comparison to the hourly rate, as well as looking at how firms may implement these new models.

Read more here.