Ester Lardent is one the most thoughtful pro bono (and indeed access) leaders.
It is very encouraging to see her endorse triage and simplification in a recent opinion piece in the National Law Journal and available on Law.com.
Triage and simplification. The growing trend toward self-representation in legal matters has created enormous burdens for the courts and may, absent quality-control measures, result in bad outcomes and bad law. We need an effective triage system — one that diagnoses clients’ legal problems and determines the best and least costly legal intervention. For some clients and matters, that will mean brief service and advice, education about legal issues and rights, pro se representation, mediation and negotiation, unbundled legal services or nonlegal assistance; for others, full representation with zealous advocacy by a lawyer. At present, we fail to distinguish the nature of the need and the optimal and practical legal process; given the crisis in resources, we cannot continue to do so. And, we must accept the fact that our justice system, as currently configured, is far too complex and adversarial. We need to simplify the law, delegalize those matters that are not best dealt with in a courtroom setting, and admit that, in appropriate matters, trained nonlawyers can provide effective assistance.
The bulk of the article deals with changes to pro bono, and is also very much worth a careful read.
Among her other reflective and innovative proposals:
- Voluntary plus” pro bono
- Law student pro bono.
- Pro bono as a criterion for leadership.
- Revise ABA Model Rule 6.1 (to narrow the definition of pro bono)
- Bar association (financial) contributions
- Make pro bono reporting meaningful
It may be that there are particular roles for pro bono in a triage system. For example, retired judges might be involved in the approval of diagnostic triage decisions about who needs an attorney.
Various forms of unbundled services (as diagnosed in a triage system) may be particularly appropriate for pro bono attorneys unable to make large time commitments.
Law students (as generally suggested by Esther) may be well positioned to provide informational services, particularly when backed up by technology content.
So its particularly good for the pro bono community (and a highly respected leader in it) to be joining the triage discussion.