Arizona Now Allows Nonlawyer Ownership of Law Firms
Arizona recently became the first state to eliminate ethics rules – which all states have, including Wisconsin – that prohibit nonlawyers from holding ownership interests in law firms and ban lawyers from sharing fees with nonlawyers.
“Legal paraprofessionals” will also have authority to provide limited legal services, including representing clients in court. The Arizona Supreme Court, in its order, said the goal is to “improve access to justice and to encourage innovation in the delivery of legal services.”
A task force that studied the issue said “the legal profession cannot continue to pretend that lawyers operate in a vacuum, surrounded and aided only by other lawyers, or that lawyers practice law in a hierarchy in which only lawyers should be owners.”
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On the Radar
Pro Bono Marketplace: One Stop to Find Your Opportunity
With a rise in legal issues stemming from the pandemic – unemployment benefits, unlawful evictions, and domestic violence, to name a few – the need for pro bono assistance has never been greater.
The State Bar of Wisconsin recently partnered with a justice technology company to host a centralized Wisconsin pro bono portal, or “marketplace,”
Attorneys and law students can browse pro bono opportunities and respond directly to the program that posted the opportunity. The State Bar is offering free access to participating pro bono programs to post their volunteer opportunities.
The portal is targeted to launch October 26, which coincides with National Pro Bono Week.
To learn more, contact Jeff Brown, pro bono manager, org jbrown wisbar wisbar jbrown org.
Zoom: Press to Talk
You likely are now quite comfortable with Zoom. Many lawyers use the videoconferencing software to connect with clients, represent them in court, and communicate with coworkers and others as COVID-19 continues the need for social distancing and remote work.
Here’s a tip: Zoom has an audio setting that allows you to press and hold the space key to temporarily unmute yourself. This may come in handy in a group meeting, or court proceeding, where everyone is muted (except the one speaking) but you want to chime in quickly without fumbling with the mouse.
“Things are never going to be the same as they were.”
– Law professor and author Heidi Brown, in her recent ABA Journal article, “4 Lessons We Can Learn as a Profession from the Pandemic.”
Brown, an associate professor at Brooklyn Law School, made the statement while urging expansion of the legal profession’s definition of ‘Talent’.
“In both the immediate and distant future, the successful legal employers will be those who appreciate how different individuals flourish in traditional and nontraditional working environments,” Brown wrote.
“Lockdown has pulled back the curtain, revealing that many members of our legal communities, with the right support, can excel in work-from-home scenarios – even if they are working at odd hours while sharing space with and caring for others.”
Did You Know?
Facility Dogs in Court: Yes or No?
The National Judicial College’s September “Question of the Month” asked nearly 800 judges “would you allow a professionally trained facility dog in the courtroom during a trial to assist a victim or vulnerable witness while giving testimony?”
About 90 percent of judges said yes. One juvenile and domestic relations judge said her court’s facility dog had “an incredibly calming effect on anxious victims, especially children.”
Of the judges not favorable to facility dogs in court, one said the presence of a “comfort” dog to assist a victim or witness could generate sympathy for the alleged victim and potentially weaken the presumption of innocence.
By the Numbers
– The average amount of time that small law firm lawyers spend doing client work, as a result of management and administrative burdens, according to Thomsen Reuters’ 2020 State of US Small Law Firms, published in September.
Christopher Shattuck, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Practice Management Advisor (Practice411™), said the easiest way to address administrative burdens is to use practice management systems. That will free up time, allowing lawyers to focus less on administrative tasks and more on marketing.
Solo practitioners, he said, can get a practice management system on average for $40-$60 per user, per month, which pays for itself with the savings of nonbillable administrative tasks.
“They can also use their case management system to determine referral sources and find out their return on investment from marketing dollars,” Shattuck said.
Learn more about practice management software and numerous other topics at the 2020 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference, held virtually on Oct. 28-30.
Visit wssfc.org to review the schedule and register.