In November 2013, the State Bar Board of Trustees created a Civil Justice Strategies Task Force to address the justice gap and the role of the legal profession in addressing it. The Task Force is comprised of appointed members from both the private and public sectors and includes State Bar, law firm, bar association, and judicial representation. A full roster can be accessed here. The Task force will hold a series of public hearings during which it can consider input and prepare recommendations to the State Bar Board of Trustees.
Luis Rodriguez, bar President and chairman of the Task Force, has said that the Task Force will look at existing legal services and other work being done to address the justice gap, consider future solutions, and will address the growing problem of law student debt.
Two public hearings have already taken place. On March 26th in Los Angeles, the Task Force heard testimony regarding the history of and existing scheme of legal services in California and examining the causes of the justice gap (see agenda here). On April 30th in San Francisco the Task Force heard testimony regarding various potential models for addressing the Justice Gap (see agenda here). Upcoming Task Force hearings are as follows:
- May 28 – Los Angeles (meeting to focus on innovation)
- June 18 – Los Angeles
- August 26 – San Francisco
- September 11-14 – San Diego (at Annual Meeting of the State Bar)
Some issues on which the Task Force has heard testimony and which it may be considering including as part of its recommendations are:
- Limited License Legal Technicians
- Relaxing Prohibitions on the unauthorized practice of law
- Relaxing Prohibitions on the corporate practice of law
- Legal incubators
- Increasing limited scope representation through changed regulation
- Increasing or improving self-help options
- Fostering modest means representation
- Increasing pro bono participation, potentially through requirements, incentives, or innovative models
- Increasing law student participation, potentially through increased clinical participation or through changing law school curriculum
LAAC is attending the public hearings of the Task Force and following their activities closely. As concrete plans or recommendations from the Task Force begin to develop, LAAC will do its best to ensure that the opinions and concerns of its members are heard and addressed.
Limited License Working Group
One issue being considered by the Civil Justice Strategies Task Force is the potential for creating a licensing scheme for legal technicians. The State Bar Board of Trustees formerly had a Limited License Working Group examining this issue. The working group heard recommendations at its June 17 and July 18-19 meetings in 2013. This issue is now being considered by the Civil Justice Strategies Task Force as a potential tool in closing the justice gap.
The working group had been primarily examining the Washington model, but also reviewing other jurisdictions and other professions. LAAC is researching the Washington model as well as soliciting feedback and concerns from its members.
Resources: The Washington State Bar Journal published an article outlining the pros and cons of their new program. A link to information on the Washington program, currently limited to family law cases, may be found here. The Washington Supreme Court’s order and rule are posted here. The State Bar has made all materials from the first hearing available electronically, and LAAC is happy to share them upon request to Salena (firstname.lastname@example.org).