Embracing Positive Change: Advances in Access to Lawyer’s Disciplinary Decisions

In an era marked by unprecedented advancements in legal technology and a growing emphasis on transparency in the legal profession, positive changes are reshaping the accessibility of lawyers’ disciplinary decisions. Lexum supports and celebrates the initiatives reshaping how disciplinary decisions are shared with the public. One notable example is the CanLII database, where most Canadian law societies make disciplinary decisions available for free access to the public. Another one is the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board, which upgraded online access to its disciplinary decisions in 2023, leveraging our Decisia solution. Combined with the recent Artificial Intelligence (AI) developments, we can envision a future that marries transparency and efficiency for disciplinary boards more than ever.

The Evolution of the Regulatory Framework

Lawyer’s discipline has undergone transformative changes over the last decades. The scope of regulated activities has dramatically evolved, direct judicial control has been expanded, and public procedures have replaced secret disciplinary hearings. These initiatives emphasize a commitment to transparency and accountability by the legal profession. Lexum provides the technical tools required to make this constantly evolving knowledge available at the last step of the disciplinary process.

The Impact on Public Perception

The availability of disciplinary decisions enhances transparency and positively influences public perception. As the American Bar Association noted in its Lawyer Regulation for A New Century report, “Secret disciplinary proceedings generate the most criticism of the system. It is ironic that this attempt to shield honest lawyers’ reputations has made the profession look so bad.” Disciplinary boards providing efficient access to their decisions and facilitating their discoverability are pushing accountability and ethical standards in the right direction. By making documents available on the internet and providing adequate browsing and searching mechanisms, as well as current awareness tools and interpretative material, the profession builds trust and confidence, aligning with the evolving expectations of a society that values openness and fairness.

Recent Technological Innovations Facilitating Positive Change

The last few months have seen tremendous technological innovations regarding the use of AI for text processing. Large Languages Models (LLM) are opening new approaches for the online publishing of legal rulings and Lexum is at the forefront of this revolution. In particular, Lexum’s AI-powered case law summaries have the potential to significantly enhance the understanding of disciplinary decisions by the public and speed up the work of legal researchers looking into this material. Another example is Lexum’s automatic classification solution, which now allows organizing judicial and administrative decisions by topics without human intervention. All in all, tedious and costly manual tasks that were previously unavoidable when managing and enabling access to disciplinary decisions are quickly relegated to the past.

Embracing a Transparent Future

As positive changes unfold both in the regulation of the profession and on the technological front, Lexum is committed to assisting the adaptation of bar associations and their related disciplinary boards to this new environment. By providing all the technological components required for the processing and online publishing of their decisions, we aim to make online access to disciplinary decisions as easy as possible for both the public and the organizations powering it. In doing so, Lexum hopes to contribute effectively to reforming public perception and reinforces the legal profession’s dedication to accountability and integrity.

Again, Lexum will have the pleasure of attending and sponsoring the National Council of Lawyer Disciplinary Board‘s Annual Conference this year. This 21st Edition will be held from February 7 to 9, 2024, at the Renaissance Long Beach in Long Beach, CA. This will be an excellent opportunity to discuss these ideas and forge paths toward enhanced access to lawyers’ disciplinary decisions.