Legal Industry Reform

The United States legal industry is changing. With the tandem goals of increasing access to justice and moving the legal industry into the modern era, numerous states are taking a long, hard look at their legal industries and asking, “How can we improve?” The current conversation has been decades in the making, becoming louder by the day as states propel toward legal industry reform.

Below, we discuss the basics of legal industry reform and the options various states are considering. Choose from the drop-down menu below to learn more about a specific state. Keep checking back if you don’t see the state you need—the list of states considering legal industry reform is always growing.

What Is Legal Industry Reform?

Legal industry reform is the remaking of the legal industry with the intention of better serving both consumers and lawyers. The current wave of reform focuses on regulations impacting the civil legal arena. Unlike in criminal law, those involved in civil matters are not guaranteed legal representation. Over the years, increasing numbers of folks in civil cases have forgone legal help entirely because it costs too much, is too hard to find, or they don’t know that their problem has a legal solution.

And as people have gone without legal help, attorneys and law firms have been impacted, too. Those representing individuals as opposed to businesses have struggled to make ends meet. Recent law school grads who’d planned to go into public service end up taking private sector jobs because their student loans are so high. Businesses have moved their representation in-house, reducing the viability of the traditional law firm.

So, current legal industry reform attempts to solve two categories of problems:


Access to Justice in Civil Matters

  • Lawyers cost too much
  • Lawyers are too hard to find
  • People don’t know their problem has a legal solution

Financial Viability of Law Firms and Lawyers

  • Non-corporate lawyers struggle to make enough money
  • Exorbitant loans encourage recent law school grads to prioritize high-paying jobs
  • Corporate counsel increasingly moves in-house

Legal Industry Reform Options

States are exploring various legal industry reform options in pursuit of increased access to justice and a better civil legal sector.

Some states (hello, Utah) are reforming via a regulatory sandbox, which allows for experimentation within a somewhat controlled environment. Other states (looking at you, Arizona) skipped the trial period a sandbox provides and went straight for major, lasting reform. Many other states are still in the research phase and will be implementing reforms in the coming months and years.

But regardless of what shape legal industry reform takes in different states, the contents are similar across the board. Most states moving toward reform are considering some or all of the following:

  • Technology-based legal aid solutions
  • Alternative business structures (for example, nonlawyer-owned law firms like Law on Call)
  • Fee-sharing between lawyers and nonlawyers
  • Updated advertising and solicitation rules
  • Updated ethics rules
  • Paraprofessional programs, or nonlawyers being able to provide limited legal services
  • Updating law school curriculum and testing