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Third Future Law Conference a Success

By: Jayne Reardon, Executive Director, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

May 25, 2018

On May 2, 2018, the Commission on Professionalism presented its third annual future law conference: The Future is Now: Legal Services 2.018. Over 400 participants attended, including lawyers, judges, and law students from around Illinois and the surrounding states. The day was exhilarating; the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. 

Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier opened the conference with remarks emphasizing that judges and lawyers need to innovate to better serve those needing judicial and legal services. As an example of the Court’s innovation, Chief Justice Karmeier cited the over 100 specialty or problem-solving courts that provide a more therapeutic and collaborative approach to adjudication. He also pointed to a very successful pilot program, the Early Resolution Program for self-represented litigants in divorce cases in the 22nd Judicial Circuit. 

Justice Karmeier cautioned against being discouraged about setbacks and problems that occur when we try something new. He reminded us that although Illinois is in the forefront in providing access to the courts at any hour from any location through e-filing, implementation of e-filing has not been 100% smooth. “But whenever we set off on a new initiative, we should expect to encounter some head winds and to hit some bumps in the road.”

Ten speakers then gave short “TED-like talks” on various aspects of innovations in the profession such as artificial intelligence and project management. They answered questions afterwards in moderated town hall discussions.

A prevailing message was that lawyers should collect and analyze data in their decision-making. Several speakers, including John Levi of the Legal Services Corporation, talked about the need to reduce the access to justice gap. How can we live up to our pledge of providing “justice for all,” Levi asked participants, when 80 percent of low income people and 50 percent of moderate income people are not having their civil legal needs appropriately met?

Another theme was the lack of diversity and inclusion in the legal industry. Speakers gave practical tips for how to attack that problem. As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, the speakers pointed out, to properly understand and meet the needs of our population, and engender the trust our system relies upon, the legal profession and those developing legal technologies, should mirror the population we serve.

I closed the conference and summarized the themes for the day. I started with an interview I read of the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. Bezos was quoted as saying, “I am asked a lot ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ I never get asked the question what’s NOT going to change in the next 10 years?” He went on to say that the second question is more interesting because you can build a business around things that are stable in time. In fact, Amazon has profited from answering the second question: customers want low prices, fast delivery, and wide selection. 

The customers for legal services are not that different than Amazon’s customers. Our clients want low prices, and transparency in the pricing. They want fast delivery. They don’t want to wait years for a resolution of their matter. And they want selection as to what services they receive. 

What’s not going to change in 10 years is that we serve clients. We need to figure out ways to provide better, more efficient, and more affordable legal services.

In addition to a unique educational experience, conference participants earned five hours of professional responsibility CLE, including .5 hours of diversity and inclusion CLE.