COVID-19 Resources for Lawyers

OTR Special Report: Bar leaders navigate uncertainty, drive change & look ahead

In this On the Road Special Report, hear from National Conference of Bar Presidents leaders who presented showcase programs to evaluate the Covid-19 rollercoaster, lessons learned, and innovative ways bar groups are serving members. These podcasts were recorded live at the August 2021 Annual Meeting of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.

Incoming American Bar Association President Reginald Turner joined former fellow National Bar Association President Juan Thomas about the value of mentors. Turner also shared his vision for his ABA presidential year and called for young lawyers to get involved with the ABA.

A moment with the most potential?

Michigan Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack shares why she’s optimistic there’s momentum for change to address unmet legal needs.

McCormack tells former Washington State Bar Association President Patrick Palace about how she walked out of law school into an access-to-justice crisis. Yet, 30 years later, stats are frustratingly similar.

So why is she optimistic that the legal profession is on the precipice of real change? McCormack says there’s a confluence of activity responsible for her optimism.

Even before the pandemic, progress was percolating in the form of reregulation and legal technology. Then the pandemic forced a reluctant profession to innovate, almost overnight.

Although lawyers can “resist change like a boss,” McCormack explains to Palace that the pandemic taught them that it’s possible to develop new skills, collaborate, and rely on other stakeholders. 

Sandbox state of play

With the nationwide access-to-justice crisis worsening and exacerbated by the pandemic, more eyes are on states like Utah, which is at the forefront of legal regulatory change.

Tom Rombach and Joe Sullivan–former Michigan and Montana bar presidents–interview Utah Justice Deno Himonas about his state’s efforts to address the access to justice gap. 

Himonas provides an overview of changes to paralegal licensing, limited practice for those with master’s of law, regulatory reform, Utah’s unique sandbox approach, and an upcoming overhaul of the civil small claims process.

The three discuss the disconnect between public needs and the protectionist reaction from rank and file bar members. But Himonas explains how evidence is growing that opening up the market, and increasing access, is also providing more opportunities for lawyers.

Shaping the future 

As much as many would like things to go back to a pre-pandemic normal, there are lessons to be learned and ways bar groups can better serve their members.

Jayne Reardon, executive director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, speaks with bar leaders Bill Bay and Laura Farber about insights from the ABA’s “Practicing Law in the Pandemic and Moving Forward” survey and report. 

They discussed key findings, including that:

  • More than half of lawyers surveyed work from home 100% of the time.
  • Most lawyers surveyed are feeling overwhelmed.
  • There is worry about job security and client access.
  • Billable hour pressure added to the stress.
  • Lawyers with children, especially women, were struggling and considering leaving the profession.

Farber and Bay also shared a key takeaway: Bar groups need to learn what they’re seeing and experiencing from their members.

More LTN Special Reports

Listen to more On the Road special reports from Legal Talk Network by following this link.

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Molly McDonough, a longtime legal affairs journalist, is a producer for the current events show "Legal Talk Today." She also is a media and content strategist with McDonough Media LLC. McDonough previously served as editor and publisher of the ABA’s flagship magazine, the "ABA Journal." She writes about access to justice at "A Just Society."