CBA Record November-December 2021
Banned Words for Access to Justice 2.0 By Bob Glaves T hose of us who care about access to justice use a lot of terms that do our cause no favors. These are words and Chicago Bar Foundation Report
phrases that either don’t mean anything to our target audience, don’t necessarily mean what we think, or inadvertently just turn people off. A few years ago, I made a list of banned words to highlight what I think are the worst offenders. The time has come for version 2.0. Sadly, most of my originals are still used enough they make the new version too. The case for one of them has only gotten stronger, and I have one new addition. I also believe it is time to consider whether the phrase “access to justice” itself belongs on the list. Non-lawyer While it admittedly is a low bar, the most popular post by far in my blog series has been the New Year’s Resolution for the Legal Profession to “Stop Calling People Non-Lawyers.” That was posted almost five years ago, and despite an increasing number of others also calling attention to this problem, the term is still used widely in our profession today. In a time when we all are rightly more focused on inclusion in our work, calling people non-lawyers only looks worse today. As the business of law and the delivery of legal services gets more complex by the day, a host of other legal and business profes- sionals increasingly play integral roles in any successful law firm or legal department and in the broader delivery of legal services.
We don’t see doctors calling others non-doctors; dentists don’t call others non-dentists; and you won’t hear a CPA calling others a non-CPA. They call others in their profession by who they are: nurses, dental hygienists, bookkeepers, etc. I could go on here, but you get the point: this is a uniquely bad habit of lawyers. We can strike a better path by calling others in our profession by who they are whenever we can. And when the situation calls for speaking of others in our profes- sionmore generally, we can call them “other legal professionals” (e.g., paralegals, or the many other law firm professional roles), or “other professionals” (when talking more broadly about other business professionals like accountants and technology roles).
The bottom line is there is a better alternative every time. We need to send the term “non-lawyer” off into the sunset once and for all. Acronyms and Abbreviations My new addition for Version 2.0 is acro- nyms. I imagine every industry uses acro- nyms to some degree, but even within the broader legal profession, we love to use acronyms in the access to justice space. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, people who are not already a part of the choir have no idea what we are talking about. Take legal aid organizations as just one example. In Chicago, the practice among insiders is so prevalent to refer to programs by their acronym that one director years
14 November/December 2021
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