Future of Law

Sharon D. Nelson, Chair

The VSB Study Committee on the Future of Law Practice was charged with evaluating current developments and assessing how these changes will impact the practice of law. Since its inception in September 2014, the Committee met in person a minimum of six times each year. The Committee was asked to make recommendations for further study by the Bar. To that end, a report was generated which contained, among other things, seven recommendations, the final of which was that the Committee continue to study the evolving issues surrounding alternative business structures. The VSB posted its report for comment September 15, 2016 (https://www.vsb.org/docs/FINAL_Report_of_the_Study_Committee.pdf). The goal of the Committee was to help illuminate the changing landscape of the practice of law both to help educate lawyers and to help prepare them for a future that is continually changing.

The Committee engaged in the extensive gathering of information, reading everything it could find on the future of law practice – articles, ethics opinions, and studies by other bar associations. The following people possessed knowledge and experience of interest to the Committee, and they were invited and made presentations to the Committee to further its knowledge:

• Mary Bauer, Executive Director, Legal Aid Justice Center

• Henry N. Butler, Dean and Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law

• Karl A. Doss, VSB Director, Access to Legal Services

• Leonard C. Heath, Jr., Chair, VSB Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Board

• Dan Lear, Avvo, Director of Industry Relations

• Gary D. LeClair, Co-founded and served as Chairman and CEO of LeClairRyan

• Judy Martinez, Chair of ABA’s Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services

• Chas Rampenthal, LegalZoom General Counsel

• Thomas A. Williams, III, Immigration Attorney, Law Offices of Thomas Williams, Founder of LiveImmigration.com

• Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase and adjunct professor of the Georgetown University Law Center

• Judy Perry Martinez, Chair, ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services

• David Beech, CEO of Knights Solicitors

• Dan Pinnington, Vice President with the lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company in Canada 11:30

• Hilarie Bass, ABA President-Elect

• Thomas J. Hamilton, LL.B., B.C.L. VP, Strategy and Operations, ROSS

• Shantelle L. Argyle, Co-Founder and Executive Director Open Legal Services

• Laurel S. Terry, Professor of Law, Dickinson Law


Early on, the Committee determined that it should narrow the topics to explore and therefore divided itself into three subcommittees:

Technology and the Practice of Law—this subcommittee looked at advances in technology and how law practice is being changed by new technologies. It also studied how the Internet and other forces have created a market for non-lawyer legal service providers.

Access to Justice—this subcommittee focused on the “justice gap” - the unmet legal needs of a large majority of our low and middle income population despite an oversupply of lawyers in the U.S. It also focused attention on initiatives by the organized bar and the efforts of other organizations to address the justice gap, including some projects in other U.S. jurisdictions to allow licensed paraprofessionals to deliver legal services.

Alternative Business Structures—this subcommittee looked at jurisdictions outside the U.S. that permit nonlawyers to participate and have ownership in legal services firms, as well as the status of any similar initiatives or proposals in U.S. jurisdictions.

Current members of the Committee this past year include: Sharon D. Nelson, Chair; Brian Lawrence Buniva, Esq.; Marni E. Byrum, Esq.; Doris Elcenia Henderson Causey, Esq.; Christopher R. Fortier, Esq.; Ronald Lee Livingston, Esq.; J. Neal Insley, Esq.; Christy E. Kiely, Esq.; Kellam T. Parks, Esq.; Michael W. Robinson, Esq.; Professor A. Benjamin Spencer, Esq.; Neil S. Talegaonkar, Esq.; Karen A. Gould, Esq., VSB Executive Director, James M. McCauley, Esq., Ethics Counsel and Emily F. Hedrick, Esq. (VSB Liaisons

Updated: Jul 13, 2017