Illinois Legal Industry Reform
Illinois is considering some mighty legal industry reform. It may not be the first state in the nation to shake up its legal industry, but the changes Illinois is contemplating are creative and expansive. We can’t wait to see how Illinois changes the legal industry in the Prairie State and beyond.
“Today’s legal market for consumer and small business services is not working well for most involved. … Disruption and change are already happening all around us, and the question is how we are going to respond to them. We can either take a lead role in shaping that change, or we can watch as outside forces shape the future for us.”
What Legal Industry Reforms Are Being Considered in Illinois?
Illinois has been actively researching legal industry reform for years. In 2019, the Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation (CBA/CBF) formed the Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation. After a year of research, the Task Force (broken down into five committees) submitted a report with recommendations to the Illinois Supreme Court in October 2020.
The Task Force was mindful of the growing separation between the public’s legal needs and lawyers. To combat this disconnect, the group’s goals were to bring lawyers and clients together, help people understand when they have a legal problem, and spur innovation across the legal industry.
Notable recommendations include:
- Develop alternative fees to achieve more transparent, upfront pricing for legal services.
- Make it easier for people to find legal information and lawyers.
- Expand the court navigator network and add a position that would help people navigate the legal system to access the help they need.
- Clearly define the practice of law. The current definition adopts a “we’ll know it when we see it” approach, which leaves ample room for interpretation.
- Rewrite the Rules of Professional Conduct so that they’re in “plain language.”
The Task Force asked the Supreme Court to delay considering the matter of law firm ownership until more information is available out of Arizona and Utah.
When Will Legal Reforms in Illinois Be Implemented?
The Illinois Supreme Court had a positive response to many of the Task Force’s recommendations. Next steps involve the Court creating plans to begin implementing reforms.
Why Is Legal Industry Reform in Illinois Necessary?
Legal industry reform in Illinois is necessary because the system is breaking down in multiple ways. As stated in the Task Force Report commissioned by the CBA/CBF, “Today’s legal market for consumer and small business services is not working well for most involved.” And the access to justice gap only grows.
The report goes on to say, “Disruption and change are already happening all around us, and the question is how we are going to respond to them. We can either take a lead role in shaping that change, or we can watch as outside forces shape the future for us. Either way, the status quo is unacceptable.”
Is Illinois the Only State Pursuing Legal Industry Reform?
No! At least a dozen states are considering legal industry reform and researching the access to justice gap.
In Utah, legal industry reform is up and running, and Law on Call has been in operation there since Winter 2021. Legal industry reform in Arizona is in place as well, and our application to operate as an alternative business structure in the state was recently approved.