What is the "Sandbox" created by the Utah Supreme Court?

Changes to Utah’s legal industry are taking place due to the sandbox recently created by the Utah Supreme Court. This reform movement started back in late 2018 with John Lund, past President of the State Bar, and Justice Deno Himonas in an effort to increase the access Utahns have to legal services.

What is the sandbox?

If you don’t already know what the sandbox is, it’s a way for “individuals and entities to explore creative ways to safely allow lawyers and non-lawyers to practice law and to reduce constraints on how lawyers market and promote their services”. The sandbox program will run for two years after which there will be an evaluation of data collected from everyone involved in it since it’s a pilot program.

The program’s development happened at a faster rate due to the economic effects of COVID-19. A Utah Courts press release says the rates at which Utah residents are needing legal help is growing due to struggles like debt, layoffs, and bankruptcy. With these regulatory changes, the Utah Supreme Court hopes to help more people have more access to professional services when dealing with legal problems.

Below are questions you may have about the legal sandbox along with the answers provided by the Utah Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform.

Q: What is a sandbox?

A: “The Sandbox is a policy tool used to develop a new regulatory approach. It is akin to a pilot program, where a government body can change the rules in a very controlled and time-limited way, monitor how things go, collect data, and analyze the results. The “sandbox” metaphor is meant to convey a safe and bounded space for experimentation.”

Q: How will things be different with the regulatory sandbox?

A: One of the main changes within the sandbox scenario which include changes to the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct in the legal industry. Some of these changes are:
  • Allows fee-sharing with non-lawyers.
  • Allows non-lawyer ownership investment, or partnership in law firms or other entities providing legal practice services provided such entities are authorized by the Supreme Court.
Q: How will people be protected from bad legal help offered by unqualified providers? How will the most vulnerable be protected?

A: According to the Utah Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform, nontraditional sandbox applicants will be subjected to requirements such as submitting regular reports. They’ll also receive sanctions such as fines if they cause any harm to consumers.

Q: Is the State Bar overseeing the sandbox?

A: No, the State Bar is not overseeing the sandbox. The leaders of the pilot program and the leaders of the State Bar have decided that the State Bar is best suited to deal with the licensing and ongoing needs of individual lawyers.

For more answers to questions you may have about the sandbox and what it means for you, visit this FAQ sheet: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1k3PNgA1SFnO8yZZ7Z3c9GsEsqTwUFdm1/view

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