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Vermont Weighs In on the Future of Legal Services

Prompted by a call from Vermont's Chief Justice, in March 2014 the Vermont Bar Association convened a joint commission similar to the ongoing initiative of the State Bar of Michigan's 21st Century Practice Task Force. Like Michigan's task force, Vermont's commission was broad-based, composed of lawyers, law school faculty, judges, paralegals, technology specialists, and other members of the greater legal community. The Vermont commission operated through four committees with overlapping responsibilities: Legal Education, Court Process, Legal Services, and Technology. Michigan's Task Force has three committees: Access and Affordability, Practice, and Regulatory. 

The Vermont Commission's newly released report is here.  

Its key recommendations:

Legal education - License paralegals. Unlike Washington's LLLT's (limited license legal technicians) a licensed paralegal would be not be permitted to work independently from an attorney. 

Court Process - reform small claims dockets, revise complex litigation rule, explore creation of a business court, extend judicial assignment rotation, revisit the question of a generalist judiciary.

Legal Services - overhaul the state court website, put live legal advisors in courthouses, increase legal aid funding, expand law school internships/practice in rural areas, expand use of paralegals for common retail problems, and create a statewide Office for Access to Justice.

Technology - update case management system, create statewide court calendar system, expand video conferencing and phone appearances, offer greater bar-based technology support for lawyers, and expand online dispute resolution.


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