The rule of law is the foundation that supports the pillars of our democracy. It creates a social contract and is the arbiter of disputes as well as the insurer of basic human rights. Lofty stuff, but what exactly is the rule of law? The World Justice Project offers a four-pronged functional definition.
- The government and citizens are accountable under the law.
- The laws are clear, just, and applied evenly to protect fundamental rights, including core human rights.
- The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient.
- Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives that reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
There is a growing body of evidence depicting stress cracks in the rule of law. If the damage is not repaired, our tripartite system of Government, civil rights, elections, free press, etc.—will be replaced by a very different social order. Democracy is neither guaranteed nor absolute, and it ceases to exist without the rule of law. Lawyers and an independent judiciary are the rule of law’s ultimate defenders as well as the masons to restore it. They are locked in an expanding, unrelenting assault on the rule of law coming from multiple fronts and in old and new ways.
How Bad Are Things And What Can Be Done To Fix Them?
Our country has an acute access to justice crisis– the vast majority of individuals and small business that need legal assistance are denied counsel due to sky-high prices. When most people and small businesses- cannot afford a lawyer even when they desperately need one, confidence in our legal system wanes. The perception is that only the wealthy can afford a lawyer, and real ‘justice’ is reserved for the rich or connected. Fortunately, there are fixes to the access to justice crisis. Advances in technology, new legal delivery models, a focus on process, and a surfeit of unemployed and underemployed lawyers provide an opportunity for affordable legal representation for the many millions of Americans in need of it. This will help to restore public confidence in the legal system—and lawyers. It will also ease the suffering that often results from pro se representation—or forfeiture of rights – in a range of life-altering situations that includes eviction, discrimination, immigration matters, divorce, etc.
Law enforcement agencies are frequently under suspicion and attack. The rift between those charged to ‘protect and defend’ and the public they serve has widened in recent years. Likewise, public perception of equal enforcement, rights, and protection under the law has eroded. There are no quick fixes. A return to ‘beat cops’ who know and are known to the community, more diversity in law enforcement, better community relations between law enforcement and the citizenry, and sentencing parity is a start.
MARK A. COHEN has had a long and distinguished career as a lawyer and innovator in the legal vertical. His unique perspective on the legal industry is derived from roles he has had as an internationally recognized civil trial lawyer, legal entrepreneur, early large-scale adopter of technology for the delivery of legal services, partner at one of the largest law firms, founder and managing partner of a national litigation boutique firm, outside General Counsel, federally appointed Receiver of a large, international aviation parts business with operations on four continents, Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, writer, speaker, and acknowledged global thought leader at the intersection of law, business, and technology. Mark currently serves as CEO of Legalmosaic, a company that provides strategic consulting to service providers, consumers, investors, educators, and new entrants into the legal vertical. Prior to founding Legalmosaic, Mark was Co-Founder of Clearspire (www.clearspire.com), a groundbreaking legal service provider whose disruptive, proprietary IT platform and reengineered legal model garnered international acclaim. This followed his founding of Qualitas,an early entrant into the LPO space. Earlier in his career, Mark was an internationally recognized civil trial lawyer. He was an award-winning Assistant U.S. Attorney and the youngest partner of Finley Kumble prior to founding his own multi-city litigation boutique firm. Mark is widely known for his blogging and speaking on a range of legal topics focused on changes, challenges, and opportunities in the current legal landscape. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown Law Center (devising and teaching two “contemporarily relevant” courses) and is recognized as a global thought leader in the legal vertical. Mark has been active in sports and the arts throughout his life, and this is reflected in his writing and speaking on legal issues where he frequently makes references to those topics. He enjoys mentoring students and young lawyers and is known for his colorful sense of humor and candor. Contact – Google+ – LinkedIn – Twitter
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