The University of Otago Legal Issues Centre is launching a small experiment today – we want to see if we can gather up some experiences from clients about finding a lawyer and working with lawyers. The website is yourlawyerstory.org.nz and is based on story sharing websites in various parts of the community sector.
The impetus for this project comes from a couple of different sources. First, I’m teaching a summer school paper in January-February 2018 called “Legal Practice“. It is a new paper that I’m putting together at the moment and it aims to survey the history and structure of the profession, the variety of practice settings and different ethical pressures of these settings, and then look forward to the future of legal practice. I want the students to be able to get a sense of the client experience so that when we are discussing the future of legal practice, we are doing it with a strong sense of what clients want and need. The yourlawyerstory.org.nz is, therefore, mainly a way of generating a teaching resource. I hope to be able to give students stories to analyse and consider that, instead of abstracting the client experience to “facts” and “legal issues”, makes the client experience more concrete.
The second reason for the project is that we had real difficulty accessing litigant perspectives for our research on the pace of litigation in civil High Court cases (due to be released early-October). Despite trying several different methods to reach litigants, we had a very low response rate. That is disappointing as it means the research doesn’t have a strong litigant perspective and the voices of the professional participants in the litigation process – the lawyers, judges and court staff – dominate. The yourlawyerstory.org.nz website isn’t to generate research data as such, but it is testing the water to see if people are willing to share stories and if this is a way of accessing their perspectives for future projects.
We’ve given people the option of having their story used only as a teaching resource or having them published on the website. We will moderate all submissions before using them for either purpose and remove all identifying details. The idea of sharing them on the website is to create a resource for anyone who wants to use them, including lawyers who may be interested in reading them.
So if you know anyone who might be willing to share their lawyer experiences – please pass this on: www.yourlawyerstory.org.nz.