Every year, more than 50,000 domestic relations cases are filed in Arkansas. Nine out of every ten of these cases involves at least one person who does not have a lawyer. Similar trends can be seen in cases involving housing, wills and estates, and debt collection cases. Only about 3000 Arkansas attorneys are currently in private practice and available to even handle cases like this. Under these conditions, it would be virtually impossible for everyone with an active case who needs legal advice to actually get it.
In recent years, more and more people have turned away from lawyers and instead sought information and legal forms online. People often pay hundreds of dollars to online services that provide documents that turn out to be legally deficient. The desire for upfront, transparent pricing and for options that allow people to handle simple matters themselves is driving a new kind of legal market–one that is leaving the legal profession behind, to the detriment of consumers and our system of justice.
For these reasons, the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, through special Task Force on Self-Represented Litigants, has spent the last four years researching rules in other states, gathering Arkansas-specific data on self-represented litigants and market trends, drafting rules, and sharing those drafts with attorneys and judges all over the state. The recommended rule changes that the Arkansas Supreme Court has released for public comment represent four years worth of work toward a solution that we believe will make legal services affordable to many people who are currently priced out of the market, will allow cases involving self-represented litigants who use limited scope legal services to get resolved more efficiently and on the merits, and will open a new market of paying clients to attorneys.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has issued a per curiam order seeking comments from the bench, bar, and public on proposed rule changes to the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure. Rules 11 and 64 would be modified and a new Rule 87 would be added. The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission drafted the rule changes with the goal of increasing access to justice by explicitly authorizing “unbundling” of legal services. (Read more about unbundling.) The Commission strongly encourages the public to submit comments for the Court’s consideration.
The exact text of the proposed rule changes can be found here. Below is a brief summary of the changes proposed.
Rule 11 is proposed to be changed to explicitly authorize “ghostwriting” in Arkansas. Ghostwriting is when an attorney prepares pleadings on behalf of a client, but does not represent the client beyond preparing the documents. Under the proposed changes, an attorney would not need to sign the pleadings, but would be required to include a notation stating: “This document was prepared with the assistance of a licensed Arkansas lawyer pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(c).”
The proposed changes would also allow an attorney ghost writing pleadings for a client to rely on the client’s representation of facts unless the attorney has reason to believe the representation is false or materially insufficient.
The proposed changes to rule 64 are limited to adding a reference to the proposed Rule 87 and making technical corrections to make pronouns inclusive of both genders.
The addition of Rule 87 would establish procedures for how an attorney withdraws from a case when the attorney and client have agreed that the representation is limited to only part of a case, as permitted by Rule 1.2(c) of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct.
The proposed changes represent a win-win-win for the public, courts, and attorneys. By clarifying the procedures for attorneys who offer unbundled legal services, more attorneys will feel comfortable offering this option to clients. Unbundled services allow a lawyer and client to agree that the lawyer will handle certain parts of the case and the client will be responsible for other parts of the case. For example, a lawyer and client might agree that the lawyer will prepare a divorce complaint for the client and advise them about how they should proceed to get their divorce decree or they might agree that the lawyer will represent the client at one hearing while the client remains responsible for the rest of the case. Existing rules require that attorneys who provide limited scope representation only when it is appropriate under the circumstances, which means that limited scope representation is usually NOT going to be an option for complicated cases or unsophisticated clients.
This has the effect of increasing access to justice because attorneys who offer unbundled services charge fees that reflect a discrete amount for a discrete aspect of the case. Such fees, though commensurate with the amount of time an attorney puts in, are typically much more affordable than full-service fees. This means that more people can afford legal representation. This not only improves the outcomes in individual cases, but also helps our courts to run more efficiently. Lawyers are also able to offer their services to people who previously wouldn’t have gone to them for help.
To submit comments on these proposed changes, mail them to the Clerk of the Arkansas Supreme Court at the following address:
Stacey Pectol, Clerk, Supreme Court of Arkansas
ATTN: Civil Procedure Rules
625 Marshall Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Comments must be made by October 6, 2017. If you have questions or would like additional information about the rules or our research, feel free to contact us.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation today announces a writing contest with a $1000 prize to be awarded to the best entry from an Arkansas high school student, and another to the best entry from an Arkansas adult (age 19 or older). The Hope for Justice Prize will be awarded for original, written works of fiction that illuminate the importance of access to justice in the lives of children. The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2017.
For more information, including complete terms and conditions, click here.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation is pleased to announce that the following attorneys have joined its board:
Representative Sarah Capp
Rep. Capp, of Ozark, has been appointed to the Foundation Board by the Arkansas Supreme Court. She is in her first term in the Arkansas House of Representatives and represents District 82, which covers portions of Franklin, Madison, and Crawford Counties. Rep. Capp practices law in Ozark, where she is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the Parent Counsel Advisory Committee.
J. Cliff McKinney II
Cliff McKinney, a Little Rock attorney at Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull, was appointed to the Foundation Board by the Arkansas Supreme Court. McKinney’s practice focuses on real estate and regulatory matters. In addition to his practice, he is involved in the Arkansas Bar Association, serving on the Board of Governors and as Chair of the Real Estate Law Section. McKinney also serves as an adjunct professor at the William H. Bowen School of Law and is on the Board of Directors of Habitat of Humanity for Central Arkansas.
Kristin Pawlik, an attorney practicing with Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider & Pawlik in Rogers, has been appointed to the Foundation Board by the Arkansas Bar Association. Pawlik’s practice focuses on domestic relations, criminal defense, and family law. She is also an active member of the Arkansas Bar Association, serving on the Board of Governors. Pawlik has previously been honored as a Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.
The Arkansas Access to Foundation would like to express its gratitude to Rep. Capp, Mr. McKinney, and Ms. Pawlik for agreeing to devote their time and talent to reducing the justice gap in Arkansas. The Foundation also thanks its outgoing members, Zina Frazier, Tamara Cochran, and J.D. Gingerich, for their service.
About the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission & Foundation
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission works to ensure justice for all. That means that all Arkansans get the protections of the law. We research the unmet legal problems of Arkansans, encourage attorneys to do pro bono work for families who are priced out of the legal market, and recommend evidence-based solutions to policymakers.
Our sister nonprofit organization, the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, funds the state’s two civil legal aid organizations: The Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas. Together, their lawyers help more than 13,000 Arkansans yearly with knowing and enforcing their rights and by being their voice in court. Through these approaches, we all work together to achieve fairness and make sure nobody with a legal problem is excluded from justice.
In observance of Law Day, a day designed to celebrate the role of law in our society and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession, Legal Aid of Arkansas has announced awards for its top volunteers. According to Lee Richardson, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Arkansas: “Attorneys in Arkansas are selfless in their commitment to providing access to justice to those of humble financial means. Pro Bono volunteers allow Legal Aid to serve hundreds of individuals and families annually who would otherwise be standing alone at the Courthouse door.”
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission joins Legal Aid in thanking these attorneys for living up to their professional duty to serve the impoverished, defenseless, and oppressed. Pro Bono service represents what is best about the legal profession and the Commission encourages all lawyers to follow the example of these honorees by giving back to their community.
2017 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Awards
Equal Access to Justice Panel-Outstanding Attorney
John Blair (Rogers)
Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly-Outstanding Attorney
Steven Davis (Harrison) & Ray Nickle (Jonesboro)
Medical-Legal Partnership-Outstanding Attorney
William Waddell Jr. (Little Rock)
Outstanding Pro Bono Attorneys
Third Judicial District: Ed Boyce (Newport), Jim McLarty (Newport) & Joe Grider (Pocahontas)
Fourth Judicial District: Donald Tippett (Fayetteville) & Greg Cuzick (Springdale)
Fourteenth Judicial District: James Wallace (Flippin), Jodi Strother (Mountain Home), & Johnny Nichols (Harrison)
Sixteenth Judicial District: Scott Stalker (Batesville) & Mat Dellinger (Melbourne)
Twentieth Judicial District: Jerry Patterson (Marshall) & Donna Price (Clinton)
Over 50 Hours of Pro Bono Service
Over 20 Hours of Pro Bono Service
Joshua Meister (Rogers), Joanne McCracken (Lowell), Mary Schneider (Rogers), Johnny Nichols (Harrison), Steven Davis (Harrison), Chris Flanagin (Eureka Springs), Ariel Snyder (Jonesboro), Roger McNeil (Jonesboro), Kevin Cole (Jonesboro), Christopher Jester (Jonesboro), Kevin Orr (Jonesboro), Megan Henry(Jonesboro), Justin Parkey (Jonesboro), Seth Williams (Jonesboro), Quincy Jaeger (Jonesboro), Lorie Whitby (Paragould), Jay Scurlock (Paragould), Blair Arnold(Batesville), Scott Stalker (Batesville), Bill E. Bracey (Blytheville), Michalene Connealy (Blytheville), Ben Hollowell (North Little Rock), Tory Lewis (Little Rock), Ann Faitz (North Little Rock), Jerry Patterson (Marshall), Donna Price (Clinton), Donald Tippett (Fayetteville), Raymond Smith (Fayetteville), Greg Cuzick (Springdale), Everett DePangher (Fayetteville), Kelly Freeze (Fayetteville), Kimberly Petrone (Fayetteville), Maggie Benson (Fayetteville), J. Timothy Smith (Fayetteville), Scott E. Smith (Fayetteville), George Butler (Fayetteville), D. Westbrook Doss (Fayetteville), Gail Segers (Fayetteville), Bob I. Mayes (Fayetteville), Greg Niblock (Stuttgart), Leigh Ann Yeargan (Fayetteville), Sarah Reyes (Rogers), Geoff Edwards (Fayetteville), Jennifer Quezada (Cave Springs), Tara Smith (Rogers), & Jeff McGinnis (Bentonville)
Caitlin Savage, a devoted pro bono attorney and community volunteer, will be honored with the Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award at the upcoming 2017 Arkansas Bar Annual Meeting in June. The Arkansas Bar Foundation annually issues the award to an individual who shows a commitment to equal justice programs for the poor, including pro bono efforts through legal services programs.
Ms. Savage is one of the youngest recipients to have received this award, having just graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2013. Since becoming an attorney, Ms. Savage has volunteered for Arkansas Access to Justice, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and Center for Arkansas Legal Services in clinics to assist marginalized Arkansans with legal documents necessary to improve employment opportunities, preserve family stability, and obtain identity documents.
In 2016, Ms. Savage was appointed as the chair of the Pro Bono Committee for the Arkansas Bar Association’s Young Lawyers’ Section. As chair, Caitlin has worked tirelessly to serve the low-income citizens of Arkansas. She has assisted Legal Aid of Arkansas with its expungement clinic at St. Vincent’s Hospital through its Medical-Legal Partnership. She has also organized three separate Wills for Heroes Estate Planning Clinics across the state which specifically serve police, firefighters, first responders, and veterans.
Apart from her pro bono work, Caitlin is passionate about fundraising for local nonprofits. In 2015, she received a grant from the Southern Partners Fund to study “raising resources in the rural South.” In 2016, the Arkansas Association of Fundraising Professionals named her as the Chamberlain Scholar for her devotion to fundraising.
Since 2015, Ms. Savage has volunteered her time with Lucie’s Place, the only nonprofit in Arkansas that specifically houses and assists homeless LGBT youth. She now serves as the chair of the Fundraising Advisory Board, where she organizes and supervises several fundraisers throughout the year.
Last year, Ms. Savage served as the chair of the Merchants Lounge Committee for the Junior League of Little Rock’s Holiday House fundraiser. This event is the organization’s largest fundraiser, providing the bulk of the funding for their volunteer work throughout the community.
Caitlin also volunteered last year on behalf of the Arkansas Bar Association at Hall High School’s Law Day celebration, where she discussed the importance of Miranda rights with students.
Ms. Savage is an attorney with Wilson & Associates, PLLC, in Little Rock.
Legal Aid of Arkansas’s St. Vincent Medical Legal Partnership is in need of attorney volunteers for an expungement clinic to be held on March 16th. The event will assist low-income clients with sealing their criminal records in order to improve their ability to secure employment and decent housing. Volunteers are needed for a morning shift (8:30-11:30) and an afternoon shift (1-4:30). A few shifts for law student volunteers are also open.
Experience with criminal law and expungements is beneficial, but not required. A one hour CLE (accreditation pending) webinar will be provided at noon, March 14th, for anyone new to expungement or wanting a refresher.
For more information, or to volunteer, please contact our Program Coordinator, Jordan Rogers or call 501.492.7174.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation are relocating to a new office effective February 21, 2017.
The addition of two new Commission staff positions–a Program Coordinator and an AmeriCorps volunteer–have doubled the organizations’ capacity and needs for space, said Executive Director Amy Johnson.
The new mailing address will be 1111 West 6th Street, Suite D, Little Rock, AR 72201. All other contact information will remain the same.