ISBA Assembly OKs futures report, approves UBE and collaborative law proposals
At its December 10 meeting, the ISBA Assembly approved the recommendations of the ISBA Task Force on the Future of Legal Services, voted to support adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam in Illinois, and endorsed legislation and an ethics rule change to expressly authorize collaborative process. The Assembly also voted to oppose adoption of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), an anti-discrimination provision that critics regard as too subjective.
Futures report. The futures task force grew out of concern about the creation of court-licensed nonlawyer legal service providers, also know as LLLTs, in Washington state (for more, see the September 2015 Illinois Bar Journal cover story). The task force recommends against the adoption of an LLLT program in Illinois.
The group also studied broader challenges to the profession, including the rise of internet-based legal service providers, the impact of technology on legal practice, and the increasing number of self-represented litigants. The task force recommends that the ISBA create a consumer-oriented lawyer directory, provide technology and practice-management education and resources to members, and establish a standing committee on the future of legal services, among other measures. The report and recommendations will be the subject of the January 2017 Illinois Bar Journal cover story.
The UBE. The Assembly adopted the recommendation of the ISBA Standing Committee on Legal Education, Admission and Competence to support adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination in Illinois. The committee report, available here, finds that adopting the UBE will improve the market for job seekers and employers, lower the cost of bar admission, and help produce practice-ready lawyers.
Collaborative law. The Assembly also approved a proposal to support the adoption of legislation and a Rule of Professional Conduct to expressly authorize collaborative law in the family law setting. Collaborative law - more accurately described as "collaborative process" - is an alternative to contested divorce, and typically requires the parties and lawyers to sign an agreement obliging the lawyers to withdraw if the case goes to litigation.
In 2013, a collaborative law proposal was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly as Senate Bill 31 but failed to pass. The ISBA formally opposed SB 31, primarily because it had components that would regulate the practice of law, which is the province of the supreme court, not the legislature. The current proposal addresses those separation-of-powers issues. For more, see LawPulse in the December 2016 Illinois Bar Journal.
Model Rule 8.4(g). ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g) would make it an ethical violation to “engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.” The Assembly voted overwhelmingly to oppose adoption of the rule in Illinois. Opponents observed that rule does not define “discrimination” and “harassment” and raised concerns about subjecting lawyers to unfounded disciplinary complaints. They also noted that Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct 4.4, 8.4(d), and 8.4(j) already address discrimination and harassment associated with the practice of law.