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Focus for 2023: Increasing Public Access to Legal Services
Statistically speaking, for Florida’s legal profession, there was much to be pleased about in 2022. According to published data, Florida law firms outpaced firms nationwide in revenue, income, profit, and demand.
Yet, as the new year began, Gary S. Lesser, president of The Florida Bar and managing partner of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith in Stuart — a member of the Florida Legal Elite™ Hall of Fame — was focused on an entirely different issue: increasing public access to legal services.
“The legal profession has been evolving for decades,” Lesser said. “But the biggest determiner of the future of the legal profession will be how increasing public access to legal services is addressed.”
Citing a “real opportunity” to significantly improve access, Lesser points to The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Greater Access to Legal Services, which recently submitted recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court centering on the areas of pro se, legal aid/pro bono, and making legal services more affordable and accessible.
The recommendations for pro se litigants encompass standardizing electronic forms to eliminate confusion, and an online court system to handle lower value cases, both of which would be a “more efficient, less expensive, and easier process,” Lesser says.
In addition, the Special Committee examined the use of prepaid legal service plans, created years ago with the specific purpose of providing for more affordable legal services. As a result, there are recommendations to make this more available to the general public and participating attorneys. “Studies have shown that many people don’t see important life events, such as buying a house, creating a will, or starting a business, as legal problems but as life problems. So, they call friends and family for advice when a lawyer’s counsel could be especially helpful,” Lesser notes.
To help, The Florida Bar launched the public education campaign “Life’s Legal Moments” at FloridaLawyersCanHelp.com. The website features information on when and how to hire a lawyer.
“There’s no Hail Mary action to immediately solve these challenges,” Lesser concludes. “But a combination of realistic, pragmatic strategies can move the ball forward significantly over time, and that’s what The Florida Bar is focused on.”