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Innovation and the Practice of Law (Program)

Alberto Bernabe, The John Marshall Law School (US) (Moderator); Deborah Rhode, Stanford University (US); Helena Whalen-Bridge, National University of Singapore Faculty of Law (Singapore); Deanne Sowter, The Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution (Canada); Michele DeStefano, University of Miami Law School (US)

Innovation and the Practice of Law

During the last two years, there has been much discussion about the need to encourage innovation in the practice of law. Some of the discussion is in reaction to changes in the approach to regulation in the United Kingdom and Australia. Some of it is in reaction to the growing dissatisfaction with the current state based regulatory system that creates barriers for lawyers to practice across jurisdictions and some, perhaps most, of it is in reaction to the growing concern about a market for legal services that fails to meet the needs of those who need those services. To address the concerns in the United States, the American Bar Association has created a Commission on the Future of Legal Services and some jurisdictions have already begun to make important changes. More changes, challenges and suggestions for change are to be expected in the near future. This program will address the debate over some approaches to innovation including:

  1. Partnerships with non-lawyers and non-lawyer ownership of law firms
  2. Unauthorized practice of law by lawyers
  3. Authorized practice of law by non-lawyers
  4. Mandatory representation for those who can’t afford it
  5. How lawyers of tomorrow will practice in the multi-disciplinary global marketplace. 

Deborah Rhode will explore what an alternative regulatory regime would look like for alternative providers of legal services, such as non-lawyers and entities with non-lawyer investors. Helena Whalen-Bridge will address whether the newly redesigned regulatory framework should include mandatory pro-bono in order to address the access to justice gap. Michele DeStefano will advance a new pyramidical structure shifting from the “what” to the “how”— how lawyers of tomorrow will practice, and how they will meet the needs of the new global, complex, multi-disciplinary legal marketplace. Finally, Deanne Sowter will speak about specific innovative practices in the area of family law, including collaborative practice as an example of innovation from within the profession.

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