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- 2014 - March - 10th -
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Fraz Ahmed and Giselle Carson

Skating into the future of the legal profession

By Giselle Carson and Fraz Ahmed, Board of Governors members

Decreased revenue? Mounting debt? Technology challenges? Lack of diversity on the bench?

In a thought-provoking and motivating speech, Florida Bar President Eugene Pettis outlined The Florida Bar Vision 2016 initiative to address challenges faced by our profession.

And, he charged Jacksonville Bar Association members to be a part of the solution, to help lift someone else, to reach out and plant a seed to create a better day for our community … for our future.

In a way, it is our opportunity to pay it forward to the next generation. Along the way, no matter what our background, race, gender, or age, someone helped pave the way for us or gave us a helping hand. It is now incumbent on us to help lift someone else and to create a better future for others.

The Florida Bar Vision 2016 is based on a comprehensive review of four critical areas impacting our profession and aimed at "preparing today's lawyer for tomorrow's practice." In "Tomorrow's Lawyers," Professor Richard Susskind outlines radical changes in the legal market and encourages us to take the advice of Wayne Gretzky, arguably the world's finest ice hockey player, and "skate" to where the industry is going, rather than to where it is today.

Vision 2016 "skates" to the future to address some of the questions outlined below and the facts leading to these challenges.

Legal education

A study found only 55 percent of the class of 2011 law school graduates was employed full-time in law-related employment nine months after graduation.

The other 45 percent may be unemployed or hopefully working at nonrelated legal jobs. We must wonder — are law schools providing the education and training needed to meet market and consumer's needs? Are law students trained on how to create and manage a law practice in the 21st century and beyond? Are lawyers equipped to handle the new challenges facing our profession?

Technology

The growth of information technology and communication tools is transforming our lives and practices. However, the legal profession is not fully using technology to become more efficient and effective.

How can we use technology to add value to our work? To reduce overhead? To improve access and cost of legal services? At Marks Gray, we are using a dictation system through our iPhones to be more efficient and decrease overhead. We are avid listeners of audio books and podcasts to stay informed and educated.

At the Law Offices of Eric S. Block, advances in technology and computer software play a vital role in every aspect of our trials from opening statement to closing argument. We are constantly discussing how we can better use technology not just for an effective trial presentation, but to also be more efficient with our time.

What are you doing to use technology to become more efficient and effective in your practice?

Bar admissions

The inter-jurisdictional mobility of lawyers is growing to allow attorneys to practice in other jurisdictions without taking that jurisdiction's Bar exam. Thirteen states have already moved to administering a uniform Bar exam.

How should Florida address this issue? What effect will reciprocal licensing of out-of-state attorneys have in your practice? Will the future bring a unified national Bar test? Is this an issue we should support or oppose?

Now is the time to voice your opinion and be a part of the discussion that will mold our future.

Delivery of legal services/pro bono work

Access to lawyers' services is increasingly available only to a minority. There is a "justice gap" where about 66 percent of those in need of legal services cannot afford or access a lawyer.

This gap is fueling new options where nonlawyers are meeting the legal needs of consumers, and lawyers and nonlawyers are competing side-by-side in the legal services market. This is having a profound effect on our practices and consumers.

It is our duty to lead the discussion and the solution now. How can we deliver quality and affordable legal services to meet this gap? How can we have thousands of unemployed lawyers and graduating lawyers and this gap in the delivery of legal services? Can we create better delivery models to fill this gap? The answer should be yes. But, it will require entrepreneurship, determination and innovation.

We are moved by President Pettis' remarks and encourage you to be proactive, to skate to the future! In so doing, we will be contributing to the betterment of our profession, our community, our lives and the lives of future generations.

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