More than a decade ago, the ABA expanded its rules to allow lawyers to offer unbundled legal services, bite-sized tasks like legal research and ghostwritten motions. Gone are the days when the typical lawyer required thousands of dollars in retainer to start working on your case. With competition among lawyers for limited consumer dollars, firms are rushing to reconfigure their practices to serve clients in any way they can. That’s good news for pro se litigants, if we know how to use those services.
The American Bar Association held its annual meeting in Chicago two weeks ago. They spent some time discussing self represented litigants, of course. As usual when lawyers talk about us, the focus was primarily on ways to handle the problems we create for them and their judicial system. There was a panel on how to rush us through our cases, a panel on technology solutions for us that starve them, and a panel on how to handle the crazies among us. Really. Revamping the system so that regular people can actually practice the law under which we live was apparently off the table. Sigh.
Tech entrepreneur Rich Barton recently sat down with a room full of lawyers to discuss disruption in the legal services industry. Legal services were about to be democratized, he told them, and they had to learn new ways of doing business.
It’s a hard pill to swallow for some lawyers. But for pro se litigants, it could mean fairer access to the legal system. And isn’t that what lawyers are supposed to be for?