NYSBA Recommends Expanding Broadband, Providing Digital Literacy Training, and Increasing Access to Electronic Devices
The New York State Bar Association is recommending increased broadband service, digital literacy training and wider access to electronic devices to ensure that all New Yorkers can take part in virtual court proceedings.
The recommendations were included in a report by the Task Force on the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession, which the association’s governing body, the House of Delegates, approved Saturday.
The rise in virtual court services has benefited some clients by reducing waiting and travel time. But the task force found that access to virtual proceedings is difficult for vulnerable New Yorkers who lack internet service or electronic devices, do not have reliable broadband or don’t know how to use the technology. There is especially a need for funding to build broadband infrastructure.
“I know from firsthand experience how important broadband is, especially for rural courts and lawyers,” said Richard Lewis, president of the New York State Bar Association. “Better internet access for virtual appearances means lawyers spend less time driving and more time helping clients. These recommendations are necessary to make legal representation more accessible and equitable for all.”
The report also highlights the difficulties that undocumented immigrants experience in the legal system due to limited English proficiency. To ease that problem, the association recommends that immigration proceedings should be in-person if possible, and virtual proceedings should have safeguards to ensure that a detainee is in a private area away from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials or corrections officers.
In addition, the association recommends that:
- Law schools should improve the quality and variety of distance and virtual learning options to accommodate students with day jobs and caregiving responsibilities.
- Courts should provide a means for attorneys to communicate privately with clients during a virtual proceeding.
The Task Force on the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession, co-chaired by Mark A. Berman, member at Bond, Schoeneck & King, and John H. Gross, partner at Ingerman Smith, was formed to focus on the short and long-term effects of the pandemic on the practice of law. It was divided into four working groups: Attorney-Client Relations, Access to Justice, New Lawyers and Law Students and Law Practice Management and Technology.