WACO, Texas -
"Access to affordable legal services is critical in a society that depends on the rule of law. . . The legal profession, as the steward of the justice system, has reached an inflection point. Without significant change, the profession cannot ensure that the justice system services everyone and that the rule of law is preserved. Innovation, and even unconventional thinking, is required."
-Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States, American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services, Page 8, 2016.1
The ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services recently released their Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco last week. The report is the product of two years of research on this subject.
Among the significant findings of the Commission, two major themes throughout the report echoed with faculty and staff at Baylor Law School. The first is the Commission's finding that a significant portion of the American population does not have access to legal services.2 The second is the finding that "many lawyers, especially recent law graduates, are unemployed or under-employed despite the significant unmet need for legal services."3
These findings were not surprising to the faculty and staff at Baylor Law School. Our robust Pro Bono and Public Service Program4 focuses not only on our community, but the issues facing our nation. These issues are not new, and research in the area showed the trends well before the ABA Report was released. In researching the problem and attempting to formulate an answer to this question, Baylor Law School observed that the majority of low- and moderate-income Americans do not receive legal help from an attorney. Although this information has been reported in several surveys and scholarly articles, the ABA's Report confirmed the data, stating that "over 100 million Americans [are] living with civil justice problems, many involving what the ABA has termed 'basic human needs.'"5 These "basic human needs" include housing, family, health, and sustenance issues.6 This issue is generally referred to as the "access to justice gap."
In addition, we knew that young lawyers across the nation were trending away from finding first year jobs in big or mid-size law firms. We found that more and more lawyers are finding first year jobs in small and boutique practices, or hanging up a shingle and starting solo practices. Again, this information was confirmed by the report, citing the New York Times, stating that "forty-three percent of all 2013 law school graduates did not have long-term full-time legal jobs nine months after graduation."7
In early 2015, Professor Jim Wren and Asst. Dean Stephen Rispoli were discussing these very points and saw an opportunity to address the justice gap and also aid young in starting new firms. They saw these issues not just as two separate issues, but as two sides of the same coin. Thus, the idea for Legal Mapmaker™ was born.
Legal Mapmaker™ is a new workshop at Baylor Law School designed to prepare young lawyers to open their own law firms. It provides a model business strategy with two goals: help lawyers succeed, and help the public find affordable legal services by showing lawyers how to provide legal services efficiently and with low overhead.
"Legal Mapmaker's™ mission is to help young lawyers start a law firm efficiently, economically, and ethically," said Baylor Law School Dean Brad Toben. "By doing so, these young lawyers will be able to serve low- and moderate-income Americans and small businesses. Importantly, they will be serving their clients and making a profit. We believe those goals are essential to addressing the access to justice gap."
The concept behind Legal Mapmaker™ was to create a holistic system for how to start a new type of law firm. The Legal Mapmaker™ law firm runs on exceptionally low overhead, enabling the lawyer to charge lower fees. Following the Legal Mapmaker™ system, young lawyers are helping close the justice gap by offering legal services at prices that more of the population can afford. These points, and the research behind them, are stressed to the Legal Mapmaker™ attendees at the outset of the program.
The Legal Mapmaker™ system consists of twelve different law firm development topics:
The twelve topics in the Legal Mapmaker™ system were broken down into six sessions per day spread out over two days. Throughout the clinic, experts in each session presented practical takeaways on each subject and fielded questions from the audience.
Legal Mapmaker™ shows young lawyers how to create a law firm from scratch with overhead that is far less expensive than more traditional methods for running a law firm. The key to low overhead is in leveraging advanced technology solutions and legal workflows to accomplish more with less. These very points were stressed in the ABA's Report.8 In fact, several of the recommendations in the report, such as "educating students about innovation in legal series delivery," "mobile apps," "procurement efficiencies to lower costs," "project management and process improvement," and "advancements in technology," were incorporated into the materials and presentations for Legal Mapmaker™.9 In addition, the team behind Legal Mapmaker™ believe that the program is an excellent "on-ramp" for law graduates entering incubator programs.10
Over thirty law students and lawyers representing a variety of demographic and geographic regions throughout Texas gathered in late August at Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas to attend the inaugural two-day Legal Mapmaker™ clinic. Although the program has a $250 program fee, the fee is waived if attendees agree to take on a pro-bono case during the next year. "Our objective in waiving the fee is to give these young lawyers a taste of how satisfying it is to do something for someone who has a problem that requires a lawyer but can't afford one," said Toben.
In developing the Legal Mapmaker™ clinic, Baylor Law School partnered with a number of organizations, law schools, and companies who made invaluable contributions to the program. The co-sponsors of the program are: the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Young Lawyers Association, Houston College of Law, St. Mary's University School of Law, Texas A&M School of Law, Texas Law, Texas Tech University School of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, University of Houston Law Center, UNT Dallas College of Law, Clio, and LawPay.
An incredible group of lawyers and legal industry professionals were presenters for Legal Mapmaker™. The presenters included: Trey Apffel, Former State Bar of Texas President, Apffel Law Firm in League City, Texas; Bryan Blevins, Provost Umphrey Law Firm; Mike Bourland, Founding Shareholder of Bourland, Wall & Wenzel, P.C. in Fort Worth, Texas; Karen Burgess, Partner at Richardson + Burgess, L.L.P. in Austin, Texas; Rodney Chamness, Pakis, Giotes, Page & Burleson, P.C. in Waco, Texas; Jane Fritz, Jane Fritz Consulting in San Antonio, Texas; Judge Royal Furgeson, Former United States District Judge for the Northern District of Texas and Founding Dean of the UNT Dallas College of Law; Stephanie Gaston, Strasburger & Price, L.L.P. in Houston, Texas; Steve Harrison, Founding Partner of Harrison, Davis, Steakley, Morrison, P.C. in Waco, Texas; Courtney Huber, Beard, Brophy, Bostwick & Dickson, L.L.P. in Dallas, Texas; Monte James, Partner at Jackson Walker, L.L.P. in Austin, Texas; Heather Kanny, Partner at Beard, Brophy, Bostwick & Dickson, L.L.P. in Dallas, Texas; Allison Marble, Marketing Director at Provost Umphrey Law Firm, L.L.P. in Beaumont, Texas; Dr. Meg Patterson, Director of Wellness at Baylor University's Counseling Center; Michele Smith, Shareholder at Mehaffy Weber, P.C. in Beaumont, Texas; Joel Steed, Partner at Steed, Dunnill, Reynolds, Bailey, Stephenson, L.L.P. in Dallas, Texas; Ryan Squires, Scott Douglass & McConnico L.L.P. in Austin, Texas; Michelle Tuegel, Founding Parter of Hunt & Tuegel, P.L.L.C. in Waco, Texas; and Dale Williams, Founding Partner at Williams & Brown, L.L.P. in Waco, Texas. Several faculty, staff, and students at Baylor Law School worked on Legal Mapmaker™. Professor Matt Cordon, Professor Elizabeth Fraley, Professor Scott Fraley, Professor Jim Wren, Professor Greg White, and Asst. Dean Stephen Rispoli were each responsible for at least one of the topics for Legal Mapmaker™. Joshua Weaver and Amanda Sanchez, both recent graduates of Baylor Law School were recruited to assist with research, writing, and logistics for the program. Ryan Sinclair and Damon Kersh, recent graduates of Baylor Law School, were instrumental in researching and writing the materials for the program. The team working on Legal Mapmaker™ will continue to grow and expand the program over the next few years.
This collaborative program seeks to address the access to justice gap and jump-start the careers of our new Texas lawyers. Legal Mapmaker™ is not the complete solution to the access to justice issue in America, but we believe it is a significant step in the right direction.
CONTACT: Joshua Weaver, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 214.810.1247
PHOTOS BY: Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law School
ABOUT BAYLOR LAW SCHOOL
Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as #4 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #55 in the magazine’s 2017 edition of "America’s Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 D1 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big XII Conference. Learn more at baylor.edu