The future of legal services cannot be left to lawyers. With all due respect to the profession, it was always designed to serve the upper crust and its corporations, and that mentality is baked into the cake. With the exception of the poorest and most desperate civil and criminal defendants, the rest of us have largely been left to fend for ourselves in America’s courts.
That’s no longer okay, as the lawyer-led Access to Justice (A2J) movement acknowledges. The US Department of Justice, the American Bar Association, nearly every state bar, most law schools and many volunteer lawyer organizations have all recognized that continued public support for the legal system requires more fairness. But the solution is not more lawyers, or less expensive lawyers.
Access to justice comes only from a judicial system that is able to hear the self-represented litigant.
That’s the access part. The justice part requires that the self-represented litigant prepare to be heard in a court of law. The bias against pro se litigants is reinforced every time someone makes irrelevant and badly formed arguments in court. People who go to court without a lawyer should know how to marshall the right facts, law and legal argument to prosecute or defend a claim.
Unbundled legal services have a powerful role to play. When pro se litigants can consult with a lawyer on a pay-as-you-go basis and get critical assistance while representing themselves, they are more likely to get a fair hearing in court. When they are properly trained in legal procedure and armed with appropriate technology, like the users of our Case Manager, pro se litigants have an even better chance of being heard.
Lawyers are indispensable to the delivery of legal services, and there are great people throughout the profession, but they are not the only way the future is made.