"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reinventing the Practice of Law

First, let me start with apologies. When I wrote that last post (can you believe that was back in August?), I had every intention of posting more often and on a regular basis. Alas, what is it they say about the "best laid plans of mice and men women"?

It turns out that starting a solo law practice [even on a part-time basis] and keeping current with legal education requirements while continuing to offer presentations [and creating new ones] and doing additional work to keep the lights on ... takes more time than I thought. Who knew?

But I read something yesterday that excited me - something that I really wanted to share with you. So here goes.

Many Hopefully some of my readers will be familiar with the new battle cry in the legal profession; namely "access to justice". It appears that the powers that be in the legal community (and not just here in Nova Scotia but across Canada and the US and elsewhere) have gradually come to realize what a huge issue this is for so many people. After all, what good are a gazillion legal rights if you have no meaningful access to them?

That realization combined with the fact that technology is affecting the legal profession almost as much as those industries we more traditionally think about in this context (ie. newspapers and magazines) has resulted in the profession looking for ways to reinvent itself so as to remain relevant and provide better service to the public.

The American Bar Association, in particular, appears to be a real leader in this area, having published several very interesting publications on the subject. Publications which yours truly has been eagerly reading and digesting.

The reason for that being that I have no intention of MMC Legal Services being a traditional law practice.

Given that my main motivation for doing this has been to provide better and more meaningful access to justice for the disability community, I realize that I need to approach this in (many) different ways. As I see it, there's no point in reinventing the wheel - by which I mean, no point in opening just another law practice, even one as unique as a practice devoted to disability issues.

Where am I going with this, you ask? Good question. And the answer, as I see it, is pretty much down the path less traveled.
                                                                              Image from Right Brain Law

But lucky for me us, the time appears to be ripe for taking on such an initiative, what with all the new possibilities now available to run a non-traditional practice. The current state of technology now makes things like virtual law offices not just a possibility, but a reality; the increase in the use of flat fee billing as opposed to the "almighty billable hour"; and the acceptance by Bar Associations of concepts like "unbundled legal services" (otherwise known as "limited representation"); and lawyers who now make "house calls" (including will-signing parties - love the concept!) really make the sky the limit - provided one ensures they are always complying with the relevant Bar Society requirements, of course.

Change is often slow, particularly among established traditional professions like the legal profession. But, lo and behold, it is happening. Quicker in some jurisdictions than in others (there's no doubt about that), but it is happening.

And it is exactly these changes and possibilities that MMC Legal Services is poised to take advantage of. As I've come to realize over the last few months, getting this law practice up and running the way I envision is not about to happen overnight. But, I firmly believe, that when it does it will be YOU that benefits.

So stay tuned, if you will, to discover a very different law practice. And feel free to leave a comment telling me your biggest pet peeve with the way law has been practiced (just try to stay away from the the too obvious, please) and what you would like to see the profession (and my law firm) do differently.

2 comments:

Yvette Cherry said...

Michelle, I can tell you, you are so needed! We need this unconventional mentality with our unconventional families. I can't wait to find out more! How could legal representation be more affordable for regular families with special needs?

Michelle Morgan-Coole said...

I think limited representation (unbundling of legal services) can make a big difference for families in our community. Unbundling means hiring a lawyer to do "pieces" of the work and the client doing the rest themselves. In one way, it's a little like the Nova Scotia Legal Guardianship Kit in that a person invests their own time instead of investing their money.

Unbundling can mean everything from the lawyer drafting the documents and the client going to court to the client drafting the documents (and there is a lot of online help now available for legal document drafting) and the lawyer reviewing them to the client doing all the drafting and prep work and the lawyer going to court to .... the sky is the limit.

I would also suggest shopping carefully for lawyers - looking for ones who are willing to offer a flat (and reasonable) fee for a matter, as opposed to do billing by the hour. Speaking from the lawyers' point of view, that won't always be feasible for every matter for it can be for a lot of things.