but not a computer. The proliferation of apps for legal assistance and resources recognizes the changes in how people
communicate and get information.
The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association stated recently
that Canadian law firms are increasingly using flat fee billing and technical innovation to increase access to justice.
The Ottawa firm Slater & Gordon created technology assistance programs that allowed five property lawyers to
complete 16,000 transactions. The firm also provides online
document “wizards” for clients, for example, to create a request for parental leave.
Non-lawyer ownership may also be a vehicle to move
lawyers more quickly to innovations that improve access to
justice. Lawyers have been at this a long time and have not
solved or significantly abated the issues of access to justice
for people of moderate and low incomes. Although non-lawyer ownership is certainly no panacea. The UK and Australia have had non-lawyer ownership for 10 and 20 years
respectively, and some studies report there is no evidence of
an increase in access to justice. It is important to note that
the motivation for allowing non-lawyer ownership in those
countries was a desire to create competition and innovation.
Our Washington Supreme Court recently adopted a rule to
allow LLLTs to own a minority interest in a law firm. LLLTs
were approved to increase access to justice. Does non-lawyer ownership created with the intent to increase access to
justice result in different outcomes? Washington now has a
small laboratory to test how non-lawyer ownership affects
access to justice.
Reaching the 85 Percent
The lawyer-to-client relationship is certainly ideal and may,
in many instances, result in the best service. This result is
great for 15 percent of our population, but not the other 85
percent. We need to look for and evaluate those legal needs
that can be addressed through another service model. It
would be very interesting if a few entrepreneurs entered
the legal system and shook it up to turn our assumptions on
their heads and move us towards a more fair and equitable
legal system for our citizens.
Lawyers have a significant role to play in the transformation, but we need to think outside of our comfortable box and
how we have always done things to get there. Most importantly, when lawyers address these issues, we have to remember the justice system was not created to serve our needs, but
rather as the foundation of a free and democratic society. NWL
Kirsten Barron is
the former chair of
the Access to Justice
Board and a business
and employment lawyer
with Barron Smith
Daugert in Bellingham.
She participates in the
WSBA Future of the Profession Workgroup. Barron can
be reached at email@example.com.
Join Others Working to Achieve
Access to Justice for All
ACCESS TO JUSTICE CONFERENCE
Working for Justice:
Our Journey Continues
The conference theme, “Working for Justice:
Our Journey Continues,” builds on the
Access to Justice Board’s 20-year history of
recognizing that access to the civil justice
system is a fundamental right.
Join attorneys, judges, and law school and
community-based partners as we work
together to improve our ability to meet the
challenges of ensuring civil equal justice in
our state, build our skills, and strengthen our
statewide, growing network.
June 12–14, 2015
Wenatchee Convention Center