Speculative Thoughts on Changing Lawyers in Mid-Case — Manafort Edition

I want to draw your attention to the some specific language in the Politico story on Paul Manafort’s change of lawyers, quoting a Manafort spokesman (see especially my bold language):

A spokesman confirmed the change. “Mr. Manafort is in the process of retaining his former counsel, Miller & Chevalier, to represent him in the office of special counsel investigation. As of today, WilmerHale no longer represents Mr. Manafort,” Jason Maloni said in a statement.

Now I have absolutely no factual knowledge of the situation.

However, I can not help but notice this.  Apparently, the process of moving back representation to prior counsel was not, at least at the time of the statement, complete.  But, “as of today,” WilmerHale is out of the picture, and apparently it has become important that this is made clear immediately.

Now all the media coverage has focused on the possibility that this change reflects realization of the newly serious situation Manafort faces.  But what strikes me is the apparent speed and finality of the change — so fast that the statement is issued before the retaining of new counsel is complete.  This is in direct contrast to changes made in representation of others caught up in this scandal.  Of course, in a fast moving case, in which the prosecutor has already  shown a willinness to push hard, going even an hour without a lawyer can be very risky.

As a totally general matter, it is an open secret among lawyers that “getting off a case,” is often triggered by disagreement about testimony, or representations made by counsel to legal bodies. Sometimes this can be related to prior testimony or such representations.  More specifically often the problem is the reluctance of counsel to become embroiled in knowing (emphasis added) that testimony is false.  (One might speculate that in such situations, timing can be of the essence.)

Regardless of whether any of my speculation is accurate, you can be sure that Mueller’s staff are already going through everything they have to try to figure out where any problem might be, and to then adjust their strategy.

Not good news for any of those potentially implicated.





Posted in Access to Counsel, Access to Justice Generally, Attorney-Client, Criminal Law, Dept. of Justice, Judicial Ethics, Legal Ethics

Medicaid Survival Has Critical Messages for Access to Justice Strategy

For decades, legal aid advocates were terrified of the potential political appeal and horrendous damage that block granting Medicaid would do. We feared that as a “poor people’s program” it would have few defenders and no voting clout. We were right in our fear, but wrong in the implicit anticipated outcome. That teaches us a critical lesson for an effective ATJ strategy.

Medicaid now appears not only safe but unassailable. I wish I could say that the public has gained sudden sympathy for the poor, but I am skeptical.

Much more likely is that the expansion of medicaid coverage up the income ladder, the realization of how high a percentage of the population relies on the nursing home benefit, either for themselves or a family member, and the impact of the opiod crisis, have changed the perception of the program. They have caused people to understand that for almost every family, in one way or another, this is “their” program. (Sadly, it does not hurt that opiates are now seen as a “white” problem.)

Moreover, the very strong economic interests of providers played a critical role in the alliance that prevented the immediate demolition of Medicare.

The implications are little short of obvious. Access to Justice will only move forward, and survive challenges if it is understood as much more than a poor people’s program, and if providers have strong, not just rhetorical incenties, to protect the prgram.

The further implications are also simple. Services, although no necessarily the same serices, have to provided all the way up to the income level at which people can afford ATJ serices on their own. And, the provider base has to go way beyond a fw thouant salaried lawers and advocates, to hundreds of thousands of lawyers. Moreover, this is not as difficult as it sounds. A small tax on legal fees, would suport many lower-priced lawyers doing a lot of access work.

I beleie that something similar is politically necessary for 100% access.

P. S. I would add that this approach has huge, and much less obvious, implications for branding. I will address these in a future post.

Posted in Access to Justice Generally

Justice Index Gets ABA Pro Bono Award

The ABA has announced that the Justice Index has been awarded an ABA Pro Bono Award. (Press coverage of the Index here.)

This certainly helps cement the status of the Index as a major infrastructure component of the access to justice movement.  As the description on the ABA site explains:

The Justice Index (“JI”) began in 2011 with the simple insight that it’s hard to fix a problem when you can’t see clearly what is going wrong. We have never had effective ways to understand which states’ justice systems struggle the most to assure access to justice and which, despite challenges, are making it easier for vulnerable people in our society to protect their rights.

Thanks to the work of scores of volunteer lawyers, data professionals, state court officials, legal aid lawyers, law students and others, the JI is helping everyone to see the access to justice crisis in America more clearly. The JI is an interactive website that uses data, findings, indicators and indexing to rank the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., on their adoption of selected best policies for assuring access to justice. By promoting self-analysis and making the adoption of best policies highly visible, the JI promotes positive change across the land.

Together with other initiatives, such as Justice for All, and SRLN, the Index is empowering those in each state who understand that the states justice system must hold itself accountable for its success at providing 100% access. Indeed, as described, this is happening.

Equally important, moreover, is how much this award demonstrates the increasing recognition of the value of pro bono for access infrastructure projects.  As the story is told on the site:

When we began in 2011, lawyers at Skadden Arps researched A2J policies and programs across the country with the help of students at Penn and Cardozo law schools and in-house lawyers at UBS. Pfizer joined the team in 2012, bringing its legal staff and financial support, and introducing NCAJ to Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory, which joined the team and created the data analytics and web tools the JI relies on to this day. Kirkland & Ellis joined the team in 2013 just months before the JI went live and helped get us through the last moments before launch. The JI would not have been possible without all of these commitments.

In 2014, we began a second round of research and four law firms joined the team to re-canvas the country and provide a new and updated data set. Morgan Lewis Bockius, O’Melveny & Myers, Patterson Belknap, and Simpson Thacher, along with Kirkland, contributed the work of more than 50 lawyers – partners and associates – to the effort. Attorneys from General Electric also joined the team. With the continuing support of Pfizer and Deloitte, we launched the updated site in Spring 2016, alongside the ABA’s Equal Justice Conference in Chicago, generating extensive media coverage.

I hope that firms explore many such additional transformative roles.  Here are some thoughts on needed infrastructure components that firms might think about embracing and building.


Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, ABA, Access to Justice Generally, Communications Strategy, Justice Index, Outcome Measures, Pro Bono

My Wife Joan Zorza Honored by Boston College Law School For Her Domestic Violence Work

As described in the Summer 2017 issue of BC Law, Joan was given one of the five Law Day awards this year by Boston College Law School for her lifetime of dedicated work in domestic violence and sexual assault.  She saved thousands.

Here is the video of her being introduced for the Hon. David S. Nelson Public Interest Law Award and her speech.  (I apologize for the quality of the video at the beginning.  It gets much better at about 2 min, 25 secs.)



Posted in Domestic Violence, Family Law, Law Schools, Legal Aid, Personal, Vocation | 1 Comment

Professional-Client Partnering Lessons

Note: This is an access to just version of a recent post on my Patient Partnering Site.

A recently published tool intended to be used by medical institutions to encourage their patients to think of themselves as members of a care team, rather than “subjects,” has the potential to help ATJ organizations rethink their relationship to their clients.  It may be hard for lawyers to think of this as a problem, because after all, we are obliged to put our clients first, but that rarely extends beyond individual case litigation, and even at that level nuance is often lost.

The tool, which has been published, by the British Medical Jounral as a response to an editorial, is called An Invitation to Patient and Family Engaged Care for Consumers: What it is, Why it Matters and How Patients and Families Can Engage.

This short document, of which I am proud to be listed listed as a co-author, explains the concept of patient engaged care, describes and briefly summarizes a synthesis of the research into the impact of this approach performed by the National Academy of Medicine and Planetree.

Perhaps most importantly, then tool then specifically welcomes and invites patients to become engaged and partnering team members. (Note that my blog, attempting to summarize the very rich and detailed original Planetree-NAM paper, into which I had some input, is here.)

The BMJ response includes our offered model “Dear Patients & Families” letter, which could be used by medical institutions to explain, welcome and support full engaged participation.

For example, the invitation references and summarizes the research as follows:

The good news is that research shows that patient and family engaged care leads to better relationships between you and your healthcare providers. It helps keeps patients safe. It reduces healthcare costs and keeps people from being unnecessarily readmitted to the hospital. Patient and family engaged care makes healthcare staff feel more connected to the work they do, which makes for a better experience for everyone.

Below is a list of some of the tools specific invitations and suggestions are below.  As you read them, think about whether we in access to just are in the position to make any similar suggestions and invitations, and if not, if there is a good reason for that.

  • On your next visit to your healthcare provider, ask them if they have seen the framework for patient and family engaged care. If not, direct them here: https://nam.edu/pfec.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if there is a way for you to be involved in improving care. For example, ask if they have a patient-family advisory council.
  • Ask to be part of the organization’s leadership or government team. Ask if patients are included as board members, for example.
  • Ask to be with your loved one at all times, if they want that. Question why there are restrictions to visiting patients. If having visitors is not beneficial to your healing process, enlist the support of your care team to set parameters for guests.
  • Ask that a Care Partner or family member be present and engaged for all conversations about your health.
  • State your feelings. They matter just as much as your physical condition.
  • Get involved in research. Ask about how your condition is being studied and how you can help.
  • Let your care team know how you like to receive information.
  • Ask to see and contribute to your medical record. If you don’t understand what you read in your medical record, ask questions until you do.
  • Tell your care provider what your health goals are – in your own terms (for instance, being able to walk up a flight of stairs, being able to play with your grandchildren without getting winded, etc.)
  • Come to doctor’s appointments prepared. Bring a notepad with questions, your medication list and any other pertinent personal healthcare information.
  • Create a medical biography about yourself. What conditions and medications have you had in the past? What are you currently experiencing? What are your goals for the future?
  • Act like you belong. Be a teammate, not a subject.

I think the last one, “Act like you belong. Be a teammate, not a subject,” sums the whole approach up perfectly.

In the original blog, I expressed the hope that medical institutions would want to include this letter in their intake, on-boarding process for new patients, and wold encourage staff to use its suggestions as a framework for discussions with patients about a team approach and its specifics. I pointed out that, together with the underlying NAM framework, it could also be an excellent too for staff training at all levels on how not just to have an engagement discussion, but to make all discussions team discussions.

I would make a parallel plea for access to justice institutions.  In particular such an approach would help institutions focus on how and whether they are empowering the client or customer voice, whether at the individual or case level.  The same qquestions are appropriate for advocacy, service, and Judaical institutions.



Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Attorney-Client, Bar Associations, Communications Strategy, Court Management, Defender Programs, Law Schools, Legal Aid, Legal Ethics, LSC, Medical System Comparision, Self-Help Services, Systematic Change, Usabilty | 1 Comment

New ATJ-GIS Fellowship Opportunity from SRLN

Katherine Alteneder of SRLN announces:

I am delighted to seek applications for an exciting new ATJ fellowship opportunity with SRLN in partnership with Georgetown’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy and made possible with the generous support of the Public Welfare Foundation. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis beginning July 17, 2017, until the position is filled.  The position is located at Georgetown Law, Washington, DC.
The Fellow will help our data and GIS group to create a county-level mapped database of innovations and self-help reforms that are improving litigants’ access to justice throughout the United States. The Fellow will build on this rich data set to gain a nuanced understanding of best practices in various counties, layering this knowledge with user demographic information to assist decision makers in identifying which reforms and service delivery systems are best suited to particular communities based on their population profile and needs. The initiative is designed to support comprehensive, systemic, data-informed reform, promoting innovation and peer network building throughout the country.
Having seen some of the products of the SRLN initiative, I can attest to its transformative value.  Most recently, I understand that the data maps generated for the Illinois ATJ Commission were very helpful in bringing that planning process to such a successful conclusion.
Posted in Law Schools, Mapping/GIS, Technology, Tools | 2 Comments

New Public Welfare Foundation President Announced

Good news

The Public Welfare Foundation has announced that their new President, effective October 1, will be Candice Jones, currently Senior Advisor at Chicago CRED in Illinois.  As the announcement notes:

Previously, she served as Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, supervising operations, programming, budget matters, and communications for a cabinet level state agency. She also previously served as a White House Fellow, managing a portfolio within the U.S. Department of Education that included developing education strategies for correctional institutions and driving a plan to reinstate federal Pell grants for youth and adults in custody.  

Ms. Jones also has prior experience in philanthropy, having served as a program officer with the MacArthur Foundation where she managed a grant portfolio focused on decreasing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system and on improving the quality of defense for indigent youth.

I know that we all look forward to welcoming Candice Jones when she brings her valuable experience to this critically important position on October 1.  Until that date, she will be wrapping up maters in Chicago, and Mary McClymont will remain President of PWF.

Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Public Welfare Foundation, Transitions