Source: The Commons Law Center

Sliding scale “low bono” legal services powered by a legal operations toolbox.


When it comes to legal representation, many people are at risk of slipping through the gap. The modest means gap, that is.

The modest means gap is an often-overlooked subsection of the population whose income is too high to qualify them for some pro bono services but too low to generally afford legal representation at full price.

The Commons Law Center, or simply the Commons, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm that’s specifically designed to close this gap.  As discussed in greater detail below, what makes the Commons worthy of a case study is an innovative business model that generates earned revenue from paying clients while simultaneously minimizing costs and maximizing access and impact through a tightly controlled menu of unbundled legal services.  The result is a mission-driven law firm in the A2J PeopleLaw space that has the potential to fund its own future growth.
Continue Reading The Commons Law Center: A unique and promising business model for PeopleLaw (311)


Illinois Court Help is changing how people interact with the court system.  Let’s hope it’s the beginning of something big.


[Editor’s note: Today’s feature post is written by Amanda N. Marino, a very talented recent law grad (Maurer Law ’22) with stellar journalism credentials.   Back in the summer of 2020, when the pandemic disrupted the summer internships of so many law students, Amanda ended up in a special summer version of my How Innovation Diffusions in the Legal Industry course.

I’ve taught the Diffusion course several times at three different law schools. And certainly, Amanda is among the most engaged and creative students I’ve encountered. But on one dimension, she’s completely unique.  One day during class, she spoke her truth, which I paraphrase here: “I understand the importance and power of diffusion theory — that it can help companies successfully drive adoption of their products and services. But I want to use its power to improve the legal system.”  Okay, I thought to myself, if I can use my network, connections, and resources to help this student, I will.

In the spring semester of her 3L year, Amanda asked if I would supervise a short independent study project to earn one more course credit needed for graduation. I agreed on one condition — that she digs into some topics in the PeopleLaw realm that are relatively time-intensive to research yet likely important and useful to the underresourced #A2J movement.  I had a few ideas on where to start and primed the pump with some initial phone calls and email introductions.  But Amanda Marino did everything else. I hope you enjoy today’s unique and special feature.  wdh]
Continue Reading Illinois Court Help: A case study in court customer service (310)


Upsolve uses First Amendment to deal a modest but important blow to UPL. Is it the basis for a playbook?  Time will tell.


Earlier this week, a federal district court in New York granted an injunction in favor of Upsolve, Inc., a nonprofit legal technology company founded by Rohan Pavuluri, a public interest entrepreneur who cut his teeth in Harvard Law’s A2J Lab, and Rev. John Udo-Okon,  a pastor from the South Bronx.  Both Pavuluri and Udo-Okon both were interested in providing free legal advice to individuals facing debt collection actions.  See Upsolve Inc. v. James, No. 22-cv-627 (SDNY, May 24, 2022).

The predicaments faced by many New Yorkers are fairly typical of those faced but so many individuals, whether indigent or low-income by typical measures, throughout the United States — they simply cannot afford lawyers to assist them with their pressing legal problems.  They are the faces of the profound access to justice crisis in the United States, putting them at omnipresent risk of losing their livelihoods, their homes, or even worse fates. Through a carefully designed initiative called the American Justice Movement, Upsolve and Rev. Udo-Okon would train a group of “justice advocates” to give targeted, limited legal advice to individuals facing debt collections.

Continue Reading New and noteworthy: Upsolve Inc v. James (303)


Improving the legal system requires state supreme courts to fully accept their role as regulators.


For the sake of this post, let’s assume the following statement is true:  Once every 100 years or so, the jurists who preside over the highest courts in the land are obligated to evaluate the functioning of the legal system and, if necessary, make structural changes that will improve access, efficiency, and justice for the citizens they serve.

Two interrelated challenges follow.  First, how do the jurists decide if structural changes are necessary?  Second, how do the jurists find the time and acquire the expertise to carry out such a large and complex project?
Continue Reading State supreme courts and the challenges of PeopleLaw (287)

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The legal profession appears to be on autopilot.


This post is for legal market analysts who are looking for updated and reliable data on the current legal services market. Collectively, its eight graphics reveal several themes that ought to give us pause, as we (the legal profession) may not have unlimited runaway to focus on strategies related to income and profit.

Most of the underlying data come from the Economic Census, which is a detailed ongoing survey of US businesses conducted every five years (years ending in 2 and 7) by the US Census Bureau.  Because of the size and scope of the data collection effort (it’s a census, not a sampling), it takes the full five-year cycle to complete the analysis and release the findings. The final—and in my view, the most interesting—installments were published last fall.
Continue Reading Eight updated graphics on the US legal services market (285)


Boomer retirements ought to be a boon for law school clinics.


The Hidden Brain podcast episode Cultivating Your Purpose begins with an effective metaphor that is well-known to aging Baby Boomers: Dustin Hoffman, playing Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate,” is drifting aimlessly on a raft in a swimming pool, as he has been doing for weeks after graduating from college.  When Benjamin confirms to his father that he has no plans whatsoever for the future, Benjamin’s father leans over him and demands to know “what was the point of all of that hard work?” Benjamin responds, “you got me.”  Unfortunately, many Baby Boom lawyers are asking themselves the same question after they retire or approach retirement—“what’s the point?”
Continue Reading Could a purpose deficit fill unmet legal need? (273)


Making lemonade out of lemons.


It’s sometimes hard for those of us working in professional services or the legal profession to fully and completely walk in the shoes of our clients.   Sometimes it takes a bit of real-world experience to get us there. 

My spouse, Mila Jones (we call her Miles), was recently involved in a controversy that had the potential to result in class-action litigation involving several sophisticated parties.  As a loving and supportive spouse whose household was personally affected by the alleged wrong—and someone who earns his living in the litigation business—I had the experience of walking in the shoes of a prospective client.  And no surprise, it was eye-opening.
Continue Reading My walk in the shoes of a prospective client (254)


Len Fromm’s lawyer shares what he’s learned.


Positively Conflicted is the right book for any lawyer seeking a rich and fulfilling life, which is a larger category than one’s career.

According to the author, lawyer-meditator Sam Ardery, we get to this highly desirable endpoint by getting good at conflict. On one level, this makes sense, as we’re all in the conflict business. But Ardery’s definition of conflict is remarkably broad and includes the tensions and traumas of our personal, professional, and familial relations as well internal conflicts, where we stew over our inadequate supply of power, security, esteem, and comfort.
Continue Reading Positively Conflicted (book review) (252)


A crowded, chaotic landscape in love with the future.


The opening graphs of Richard Susskind’s Tomorrow’s Lawyers (2nd ed. 2016) predict the revolution that is now underway:

This book is a short introduction to the future for young and aspiring lawyers.

Tomorrow’s legal world, as predicted and described here, bears little resemblance to that of the past. Legal institutions and lawyers are at a crossroads, I claim, and will change more radically in less than two decades than they have over the past two centuries. If you’re a young lawyer, this revolution will happen on your watch. (p. xvii)

Indeed, only a revolution could explain the above “market map,” which reflects literally hundreds of point solutions for a rapidly expanding one-to-many legal marketplace.
Continue Reading The best metaphor for today’s legal market is the auto industry circa 1905 (231)

Photo Credit: ESA/NASA

The 4th Industrial Revolution is here (even for lawyers).  A look at what digital transformation actually means for legal markets — and the investments tomorrow’s winners are making today.

Today’s post is the final part in the 5-part series #GreatExpectations for the #GreatReset.  (Like the vaccine rollout 💉 and my workout plan 😁, this post is a bit delayed 🥺.  A million thanks to Bill and the Legal Evolution audience for the patience!)
Continue Reading #GreatExpectations, Part V: Cloudy with a Chance of Digital Disruption (220)