Resolution 105: ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services

By ISBA President Carol M. Adinamis

In the past several days, I have had the opportunity to attend the National Council on Bar Presidents (NCBP) Midyear Meeting in San Diego along with President-Elect Mitch Heppenheimer and Vice President Andi Metzel. While many things were discussed, this particular meeting was overwhelmingly about Resolution 105 proposed by the ABA Futures Commission, a resolution that has been on our radar since the end of Immediate Past President Jeff Hawkin’s term. The resolution proposed ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services, which the ABA recommends that our state courts take into account when considering how to deal with the future of the legal profession.

Many of the objectives are “feel good” in nature and deal with things we all want to focus on in the law. But as you go down the list, it becomes apparent that the ABA Futures Commission is taking the position that there is nothing that can be done about the non-legal service providers who are attacking our profession and that we need to accept them and learn how to coexist. Your Indiana State Bar Association was not ready to give in so easily. First, we proposed an additional objective, which mandated “the protection of the integrity of the legal profession.” The ABA Futures Commission dismissed this objective, claiming that it was already inherent in the other objectives.

We weren’t ready to give up yet. The State Bar’s Board of Governors passed a resolution at its Jan. 22 meeting, asking all of our Indiana delegates to vote against Resolution 105 when it came up for a vote at the Midyear Meeting because of the concern that our work was being hijacked by non-legal service providers like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Avvo and many others. We felt this was detrimental to the core values of the legal profession and to the public.

During the NCBP Midyear Meeting, which preceded the ABA Midyear Meeting, Resolution 105 dominated conversations. Representatives on both sides of the issue were very passionate about their views. Your ISBA representatives joined with many other state, local and minority bar associations and various sections of the ABA to present a united front against Resolution 105.

At the ABA House of Delegates, your Indiana delegation stood together to oppose Resolution 105. As various political maneuvers were made, a break for lunch occurred just before the vote on the resolution. During that lunch break, the contingency against the resolution was able to get some additional language added to the resolution, which stated the following: “Further resolved, that nothing contained in this Resolution abrogates in any manner existing ABA policy prohibiting nonlawyer ownership of law firms or the core values adopted by the House of Delegates.”

The additional language did not represent everything we had hoped to change, but it was a step in the right direction. The amendment was only made possible because the ABA Futures Commission did not believe it had enough votes to pass its own resolution without giving in to something.

The resolution as amended passed. The Indiana delegation voted against it along with a huge number of other delegates, but it was not enough to defeat the resolution, which required a simple majority vote. To put the resolution into perspective, despite various news reports you may read to the contrary, it is only a suggestion as to objectives our highest state courts should follow. It is not a law; it is not binding. However, it is evidence that many are giving up on the idea that we can maintain the integrity of the legal profession and protect the public against interlopers. This is very disheartening to me.

As you may know, our own newly appointed ISBA Future of the Provision of Legal Services Committee is hard at work trying to figure out how we should approach this new world of legal service providers, among other things. I have no idea what the committee’s report will conclude, but I do know that some of the best minds we have in the state of Indiana will be giving their conclusions after much research and consideration. This is much more acceptable to me than simply saying that this drastic change in our work, from what I strongly believe is an admirable profession of service to others, is inevitable and we are destined to become just another money-making machine for nonlawyers.

One comment on “Resolution 105: ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services

  1. Lyn O'Neal
    February 11, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

    Thank you for trying, I agree this is important. however, our Supreme Court opened the door with the pro se forms and instructions they have provided on their website to take work from family lawyers. I find it hard to encourage young people to consider law as a career.

    Like

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