Opinion #16 - Bar Associations
Bar associations shall aim not only to defend and further the interests of the lawyers registered with them, but also to improve the service of justice.
Justice systems around the world have in general a lot of flaws that impede the proper functioning of the justice system. Whilst there are many issues that are harder to resolve and are incardinated in the justice workers and politicians (such as corruption and excessive influence), there are others than can be resolved by the bar associations with their lawyers.
One of the main issues is the lack of attorneys for people that cannot afford proper representation. This has a simple solution that is already in place in many jurisdictions: mandatory pro-bono hours per year for the attorneys. With this solution, lawyers get great experience, they get to help other people and the clients can be represented (some times by top tier attorneys). This requirements has been already put in place by many US bar associations, NY among them.
Another issue is the lack of technological resources for the courts. This is way more challenging as it needs not only the collaboration of the entire staff of the judicial system, but also funding from the government. However, bar associations can "ask and strongly recommend" law firms to help. By seconding lawyers to courts for short periods, there highly trained and qualified lawyers can try to step up the game of the court in terms of filing and internal procedures and act as some kind of consultant to the court.
Finally, the issue that arises the most in Spain is the speed of the judicial process. Having a hearing can take years and with the low requirements for an appeal allow small cases to reach the Supreme Court. Consequently, the courts are full of work. Here is where a combination of the 2 solutions proposed earlier can help.
Like in the US, bar associations should demand pro-bono hours to new lawyers but offering the option of doing a clerkship instead. Additionally, law firms should be compelled to hire (with a signing bonus) attorneys that have been serving as clerks and also seconding attorneys to help at the courts.
These measures can really help broken judicial systems, improve their functioning and restore the faith in justice that many citizens around the world have lost.