Future of Law: Renee Knake on the Future of Legal Services

August 9, 2018

BYU Law students and faculty were privileged to hear Renee Knake, Professor of Law and the Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston Law Center, present at the Future of Law series. Professor Knake served as the Reporter for the American Bar Association (ABA) Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services from 2014 to 2016, and she presented the Commission’s findings and recommendations to BYU Law students to show them the ABA’s vision for where legal services are headed.


Professor Knake began by encouraging students to be involved in the future of legal services, “Every single one of us has a role to play in the future of legal services. This is more than just law meets technology. Every one of us can play a part.” In presenting on the findings of the Commission, she discussed an interesting paradox: more people than ever do not have access to necessary legal services, but many law students graduate law school without jobs. The primary problem discovered by the Commission was that people either: (1) could not afford legal services, or (2) did not know they had a problem that required legal assistance. These issues, Professor Knake said, can only be addressed if the legal market and law schools begin to innovate.

These innovations can come in a variety of forms. For example, courts can place more information online and create remote offices in difficult-to-access areas. This can be particularly helpful for those who have limited means because travel to and from the courthouse becomes prohibitively expensive or even impossible. Additionally, Professor Knake suggested that companies can further develop and increase the use of “chatbots” to help people with simple legal issues. Lawmakers and bar associations can amend federal and state rules to promote increased diversity and inclusion. In the future of legal services, there is a place for everyone from every discipline of law in order to ensure that outreach meets need.

On recommendation from the Commission, the ABA created a Center for Legal Innovation, which offers fellowships to fresh and recent law school graduates. Professor Knake encouraged students to look into such fellowships as a way in which they can become more involved on the front lines of legal innovation. She also pointed students to BYU Law initiatives such as the new legal design lab, LawX, and the Future of Law lecture series, which brings in speakers to discuss legal innovations and technologies. As she concluded, Professor Knake focused on the need for lawyers to innovate so that they can respond to changes in the communities they serve.