“I think that one of the things that we have tried to stay on top of is access to justice and making the Pro Bono program more accessible through all of the courts here in Utah.”
Alicia Knight Cunningham, Esq.
The Record, May 30, 2014
Curtis Jensen, current President of the Utah State Bar, is closing out the last few months of his term and looking back at a year that passed too quickly.
“I have really enjoyed it all,” Jensen said. “Serving in this position has given me the opportunity and pleasure to meet so many wonderful people. I have had the chance to meet with lawyers throughout the state of Utah and in other states that I would have never had the privilege to do otherwise.”
Jensen is proud of the level of commitment lawyers in the state have to serving the people of Utah. “We have great lawyers, and they are doing a lot of good in the state.” By expanding access to legal services in the State of Utah and also watching out for new attorneys joining the Bar, Jensen believes that the last year has been very productive.
Pro Bono Program
Jensen is particularly proud of the growth of the Pro Bono program through the Utah State Bar.
“I think that one of the things that we have tried to stay on top of is access to justice and making the Pro Bono program more accessible through all of the courts here in Utah. We are helping people that have needs, especially in domestic and family court issues. They need advocates on their behalf, and we are able to provide this for free: no fees, no charges. We are also providing legal clinics from St. George to Logan. Through these services, lawyers are volunteering and sharing their skills and serving the people of Utah,” Jensen said.
Modest Means Program
The Utah State Bar has also expanded its Modest Means Program. “This program helps people who qualify based on their annual income anywhere in the State with their legal needs,” Jensen said. Clients who qualify are charged a discounted rate of $50 or $75 an hour, or they could also be charged a flat fee.
“Our Modest Means Program has been a priority,” Jensen said. “There is a great need in the state for legal services, and we also have underemployed attorneys who can provide those services and gain that experience. We have recently conducted a survey looking at the employment status of our members. We recognize that there are recent graduates who are still looking for jobs or trying to build up their own book of business, and we are mindful of those attorneys, and we are looking for ways we can serve them better.”
The Utah State Bar started a mentoring program in 2009. This program, known as the Utah New Lawyer Training Program (NLTP), matches new lawyers with experienced lawyers for one-on-one guidance. NLTP is mandatory for all new, active bar members who have not practiced in another jurisdiction for at least 2 years.
“We continue to promote our mentoring program, and it has been recognized nationally by the American Bar Association. Several states have also consulted with us in order to learn how they can implement similar programs,” Jensen said.
Jensen believes that the Utah State Bar needs to keep looking to the future and finding ways to better serve its members. “We want to be prepared for what the future brings. What changes are coming to our profession? How can we adapt and stay relevant in an age where so many alternative legal services are being offered on and through the internet?
We have to be prepared to adjust and adapt to these new challenges. We need to find ways that these changes in the future can improve and make our practices more efficient. You will never be able to replace the benefits of sitting down, face-to-face, with an attorney. You will never be able to design a program that will replace the advocacy and problem-solving skills that a lawyer can offer.”
For the immediate future, Jensen believes that the Utah State Bar will do great under the leadership of James Gilson, who become Bar President at the summer convention in July. Gilson is a graduate of the University of Utah and practices law at Callister Nebeker & McCullough.
“Jim Gilson is a great man,” Jensen said. “He has been a great support to me this past year for which I have been very grateful. The Bar is in good hands with him on board. He is very conscientious, meticulous, resourceful and intelligent. He will be a great leader, and I have no concerns for the coming year with him in charge.”