The nation's largest association of lawyers plans to solicit the ideas of non-lawyers in 1994 about ways to improve the courts and the legal profession.

Atlanta lawyer R. William Ide III, president of the American Bar Association, spelled out a plan Friday for assembling a "public jury" to consider reforms of the legal system.The "jury" - drawn from civic organizations and associations of public officials, with most members coming from outside the profession - will meet May 1-3 at a conference session near Dulles Airport in Virginia. The ABA, with 375,000 members, represents about half of U.S. lawyers.

"It will be the Yellow Pages of Washington in terms of bringing police chiefs, fire chiefs, criminal justice administrators together with civic and religious leaders and various policy groups," said Mike Scanlon, ABA spokesman.

Participants will consider reform recommendations on such issues as using arbitration and mediation instead of trials; prejudice in the jury box; poor communications between lawyers and their clients; and the impact of the surge in arrests likely to result if Congress votes to put 100,000 more police on the streets, as President Clinton has proposed.

The recommendations will serve as the agenda for commissions being organized in each state by bar associations and other policy groups to press for legal reform.

Some proposals will require action by state legislatures and Congress and some can be put into effect by state bar associations, Scanlon said.