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The MSBA’s Legal Summit, which took place last week in Ocean City, provides attendees with access to over 70+ thought leadership and educational programs across eight learning tracks. In one program entitled “Monopolizing the Law,” panelists Vicki Schultz, executive director of Maryland Legal Aid; Reena Shah, executive director of the Maryland Access to Justice Commission; Sarah Coffey Bowes, executive director of Civil Justice, Inc., and Jared Jaskot, principal at Jaskot.Law discussed the need and viability of non-traditional legal services and the potential to make legal help more accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford a lawyer.

Among other things, the panelists discussed a variety of innovations in the delivery of legal services space and some of the barriers and concerns that have kept a tight reign on efforts to implement new solutions that reduce costs and expand access to justice. To date, a hand full of states have implemented changes to allow for non-lawyers to provide legal assistance in limited circumstances. For example, in states like Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah regulators have adopted new regimes that allow non-lawyers to serve, in limited capacities. Other innovations that have become a part of the debate include justice tech services that integrate technology like chatbots, kiosks, and document automation systems that streamline legal processes and reduce costs.

The program, which was moderated by Irwin Kramer of Kramer & Connolly, was also covered in a recent TDR article. With “thousands of Marylanders unable to afford legal help and other states forging ahead in this area” conversations about how to go about balancing the need for affordable and accessible legal help with the need for quality legal assistance will continue to grow in importance.