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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

Several clocks on a wall

This week’s highlights 

  • Two-thirds of Americans have experienced a legal problem, says news survey
  • Most lawyers think they work too much and bill too little time
  • AG asks BigLaw firms, law schools to help fight evictions
  • Facing a surge in COVID-19 cases, Florida courts re-introduce mitigation measures
  • California Bar to attorneys: Disable Alexa when working from home

Two-thirds of Americans have experienced a legal problem, says news survey 

“Overall, 55 million Americans experience 260 million legal problems on an annual basis, according to the report, titled Justice Needs and Satisfaction in the United States of America 2021.” (ABA Journal

A massive survey of Americans conducted by a trio of access to justice groups has found that most people have experienced at least one legal problem in the past four years.

The study found that of the 55 million people who find themselves facing a legal problem each year, fewer than half think that their problem is “fairly resolved.” Fewer than a quarter (23 percent) of individuals sought assistance from a lawyer, with most citing the cost as they reason they those to find alternative sources of advice or to handle their problem on their own.

The full report is available online.

Most lawyers think they work too much and bill too little time 

“The survey, by productivity automation company ZERO, found that close to 70% of timekeepers think they work too many hours, and 82% believe they spend too much time on nonbillable tasks like administrative work and email management.” (National Law Journal

A new survey has found that most attorneys believe they work too much and that too few of the hours that they do work are on billable tasks. That’s according to a new survey of hundreds of lawyers by the email management company ZERO.

When asked whether they believe their firms are prioritizing automation software that could reduce the number of unbillable hours worked four-out-of-five respondents said that their firm was not. There’s more coverage in the National Law Journal.

AG asks BigLaw firms, law schools to help fight evictions 

“Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday urged members of the legal community to take immediate action to help address the “looming housing and eviction crisis,” according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg Law.” (Bloomberg Law

Following last week’s lifting of the CDC’s eviction moratorium the Biden administration is calling on law firms and law schools to help fight evictions. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that so far more than 40 major law school deans have committed their students and law clinics to the endeavor.

In a letter to major law firms, Attorney General Merrick Garland urged members of the legal community to help address the “looming housing and eviction crisis.” He wrote: “As federal and local eviction moratoriums expire around the country; eviction filings are expected to spike to roughly double their pre-pandemic levels.”

Facing a surge in COVID-19 cases, Florida courts re-introduce mitigation measures 

“From the death of a Daytona Beach circuit judge and the suspension of jury trials in Sarasota, to a public demand for more remote proceedings in Jacksonville, the latest COVID-19 surge is taking a toll on Florida’s courts.” (Florida Bar Association

The Florida Bar Association’s news service is reporting that several courts in the state are suspending jury trials and moving proceedings online in response to a significant spike in COVID-19 cases in the state.

Florida’s daily death toll reached 227 on August 24, and according to a New York Times database, average daily cases reached 23,314 over the weekend, 30% higher than a peak in January.

There’s further analysis of the rule changes on the Florida Bar Association’s website.

California Bar to attorneys: Disable Alexa when working from home 

“A new State Bar of California draft opinion clarifies that attorneys working remotely must abide by the same rules of professional conduct as those in an office. Protecting client information is especially important in a remote work environment.” (Reuters Legal

Attorneys in California who are working from home under emergency circumstances must not slack off on their ethical duties. That’s the takeaway from a draft opinion from the State Bar of California’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, released recently.

The opinion clarifies that attorneys have the same ethical duties to protect client information, competently use technology, communicate with clients, and supervise employees as they do when working from an office.

“Lawyers and law firms should implement reasonable measures, policies, and practices to ensure continued compliance with these rules in a remote working environment, with a particular focus on the duties of confidentiality, technology competence, communication, and supervision,” the opinion reads.

Author

  • Richard Heinrich

    Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.