In a recent speech, Florida Bar President Eugene Pettis recently outlined The Florida Bar Vision 2016 initiative to address challenges faced by the legal profession today. He charged Jacksonville Bar Association members to be a part of the solution, to help plant a seed to create a better future for law. The Florida Bar Vision 2016 is based on a comprehensive review of four critical areas impacting the legal profession and is aimed at "preparing today's lawyer for tomorrow's practice.”
In fact, The Financial News & Daily Record reported that a recent study found only 55 percent of the class of 2011 law school graduates were employed full-time in law-related employment nine months after graduation. Meanwhile, the other 45 percent may be unemployed or working at nonrelated legal jobs.
So, are law schools providing the education and training needed to meet market and consumer's needs? Are law students trained on how to create and manage a law practice in the 21st century and beyond? Are lawyers equipped to handle the new challenges facing our profession?
The growth of information technology tools is transforming law practices. However, the legal profession is not fully using technology to become more efficient. So, how can the legal community use technology to add value to their work?
For instance, at Marks Gray, the company is using a dictation system through iPhones to be more efficient and decrease overhead. And, at the Law Offices of Eric S. Block, advances in technology also play a vital role in every aspect of trials from opening statement to closing argument. The lawyers are constantly discussing how they can better use technology not just for an effective trial presentation, but to also be more efficient with their time.
These days, the inter-jurisdictional mobility of lawyers is growing to allow attorneys to practice in other jurisdictions without taking that jurisdiction's Bar exam. In fact, 13 states have already moved to administering a uniform Bar exam. So, how exactly should Florida address this issue?
According to the Daily Record, access to lawyers' services is increasingly available only to a minority. There is a "justice gap" where about 66 percent of those in need of legal services cannot afford or access a lawyer. This is fueling new options where non-lawyers are meeting the legal needs of consumers, and lawyers and non-lawyers are competing side-by-side in the legal services market, which is having a significant effect on practices and consumers.
The bottom line is how can there be thousands of unemployed lawyers and this gap in the delivery of legal services? Can the legal community create better delivery models to fill this gap? To make the answer “yes” will require entrepreneurship, determination and innovation.
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