Duly Noted . . .

Legal community leaders met to discuss future of  legal services

Over fifty prominent members of Michigan’s legal community, including the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, the president of the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) and the president of the American Bar Association, convened in mid-November to discuss the future of legal services in Michigan. Other attendees included the directors of Michigan’s attorney discipline agencies, the Michigan State Bar Foundation and the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, as well as law school deans and past presidents of the ABA and SBM.
“The State Bar of Michigan has a longstanding reputation for national leadership in two areas vital to justice in Michigan: professional ethics and serving the legal needs of the poor,” said Janet Welch, executive director of the State Bar. “New technologies combined with economic and demographic changes are transforming the marketplace for legal services in ways that present both threats and opportunities to the cause of equal justice for all.”

State Bar President Thomas C. Rombach emphasized that the day focused on the practical rather than the theoretical, with time devoted to brainstorming innovations and strategies to be developed by the State Bar’s new 21st Century Lawyer committee.

The Futures of Legal Services Forum opened a new chapter in the work started by the State Bar of Michigan Judicial Crossroads Task Force. The Task Force’s 2011 report contributed to a number of transformational and cost-saving changes now underway in Michigan’s court system. Included among these reforms:

—Three out of four Michigan counties have concurrent jurisdiction plans to make better use of resources and improve efficiency;

—Phased elimination of 40 judgeships, saving $167 million;

—174 problem-solving courts (mental health, drug and sobriety) are reaching 97 percent of Michigan’s population, dramatically reducing recidivism;

—Performance of every Michigan court is measured and results regarding timeliness and clearance rates are posted online.

“When it comes to Crossroads, our message is simple: promises made, promises kept,” said Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. “We are focused on driving change in Michigan’s judiciary to improve service to the public.”

ABA President William Hubbard spoke at the forum on “Our Justice System at an Inflection Point.” Under Hubbard’s leadership, the ABA has formed a Commission on the Future of Legal Services to address development of a new model to meet the needs of the underserved while enhancing opportunities for lawyers to thrive. The Commission’s reporter is Prof. Renee Knake, co-director of Michigan State University College of Law’s Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession.