New Jersey Lawyer recently took a look at where the future of the practice of law was heading. They surveyed several prominent NJ lawyers to do so. Among the areas of change noted was the lessening of trials to resolve disputes (currently, only 1.8% of all cases filed in state court in NJ go to trial). From the article (my emphasis added):
Another common theme predicted by lawyers in various practice areas is the continuing move away from trials as mechanisms for settling disputes.
Blank Rome’s Orlofsky said “more and more cases will be resolved in some form of ADR.”
That push will continue, not only due to mandatory ADR programs instituted by various courts, but also by corporations’ desire to settle commercial disputes quickly.
Corporations will continue to prefer alternative options to trial, because they are “willing to pay for a quick decision, which is sometimes better than the right decision,” Orlofsky noted.
He said more medium-sized companies are entering into highly elaborate ADR clauses in their disputes that call for confidentiality agreements and time frames for reaching resolutions.
Companies also prefer arbitration, he said, because they can choose who resolves the dispute.
The article also addressed the future of family law:
Ceconi, the family law attorney, said courts increasingly rely on hearing officers to handle a range of issues.
“In family court, the calendar has become so congested that you will have to bring in people other than judges,” she added.
Vuotto also sees increasing use of ADR mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law in settling divorces and custody battles.
Peter Verniero, the former Supreme Court justice and attorney general who now practices white-collar criminal law at Newark’s Sills Cummis Epstein & Gross, also foresees an increasing reliance on non-judges to relieve the court’s burdens.
The article then went to touch on the “graying” of America:
Regina M. Spielberg, a trust and estate lawyer with Morristown’s Schenck, Price, Smith & King, said the aging population will require more services in both estate planning and elder law.
“There’s awareness among baby boomers about the need for estate planning,” she said. “And an increasing number of families are recognizing disabilities and making plans to accommodate them.”
Vuotto, the Woodbridge attorney, said that as a result of longer life spans, many aspects of elder law will begin intersecting with family law.
“People are having children when they are older,” he noted, forecasting courts will be dealing with issues such as alimony and child support payments from retired parents, and the need to plan for medical expenses in divorce settlements.