Future of Law

Sharon D. Nelson, Chair

The Special Committee on the Future of Law Practice met in person four times this fiscal year. At its inception, in September 2014, the Committee was asked to make recommendations for further study by the Bar in an effort to illuminate the changing landscape of the practice of law, both to help educate lawyers and to help prepare them for a continually evolving future. To that end, an initial report was generated and posted to the Bar’s website on September 15, 2016 (https://www.vsb.org/docs/FINAL_Report_of_the_Study_Committee.pdf). Since that time, the Committee has undertaken to continue to read everything it could find on the future of law practice, including articles, ethics opinions, studies by other bar associations, etc. Recently, it has added artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrencies to the forces that are impacting law practice and, in addition, the profession has taken on a focus of well-being for the legal community; all of which are addressed in the Committee’s updated report which was posted on the VSB’s website on March 13, 2019 (https://www.vsb.org/docs/2019_SCFLP_Report.pdf).

In addition, 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, this fiscal year:

  • Christopher L. Newbold, Executive Vice President of ALPS Corporation and ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Company
  • Brandon Koeller, Principal Program Manager Lead at Microsoft
  • Anette Aav, Director and Project Manager in the Information Technology Law Program in Tallinn, Estonia
  • Jim Calloway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program and Legal Services Consultant
  • Reid Trautz, PMA with American Immigration Legal Association
  • Erin Gerstenzang, LTRC’s Women of Legal Tech 

The following subcommittees of the Special Committee on the Future of Law Practice continued this year to study current issues affecting law practice:

  • Technology and the Practice of Law—this subcommittee looks at advances in technology and how law practice is being changed by new technologies.  It also studies how the Internet and other forces have created a market for non-lawyer legal service providers.
  • Access to Justice—this subcommittee focuses on the “justice gap” - the unmet legal needs of a majority of low and middle-income population despite an ample supply of lawyers in the U.S. It also studies 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 looks 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. 

In order to streamline efficiencies, and because technology issues are mostly what drive the activities of this Committee, the decision has been made to merge the Special Committee on Technology and the Practice of Law with the Special Committee on the Future of Law Practice; the new committee being called the Special Committee on Technology and the Future of Law Practice (SCTFLP). Issues related to access to justice will be handled by the Access to Legal Services Committee, from which SCTFLP will seek updates; and though this Committee is now concluded, SCTFLP will continue the work of this Committee, monitoring activities related to, and the evolving issues surrounding, ABS within the U.S and abroad.

Current members of the Committee this past year include:

Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., Chair; Kellam T. Parks, Esq.; Brian Lawrence Buniva, Esq.; Marni E. Byrum, Esq.; Doris Henderson Causey, Esq.; Christopher R. Fortier, Esq.; Graham Keith Bryant, Esq.; Darius K. A. Davenport, Sr., Esq.; Leonard C. Heath, Jr. Esq.; Christy E. Kiely, Esq.; Mary Catherine Zinsner, Esq.; Michael W. Robinson, Esq.; David Brant Neumeyer, Esq.; Jamie B. Martin, Esq.; Kevin E. Martingayle, Esq.; Karl Anthony Doss, Esq.; Lisa Marie Lorish, Esq. and Teirra M. Everette.  

The following individuals served as VSB Liaisons: Karen A. Gould, Esq., VSB Executive Director; James M. McCauley, Ethics Counsel; Emily F. Hedrick, Assistant Ethics Counsel; and Kristi R. Hall, Legal Ethics Executive Assistant.

Updated: Jun 25, 2019