There has been a lot of discussion about allowing non-attorneys to offer legal advice. Obviously, there are some, well, issues with that. But there are benefits, too.
The real question is why is this happening? The proposal includes issues like access to justice. For many people, hiring an attorney is simply cost prohibitive. So, with increased competition, fees and rates would drop in response. One article states that 86% of low income Americans' civil legal needs are not being met. That's a big number. So access to justice is a real need.
Addressing Access to Justice
Access to justice isn't new. It's a long standing issue. Pro Bono efforts go a long way to filling that need. Low-income programs exist, too for civil cases. There are federally funded programs, as well as local organizations that exist solely to serve the community. However, they are typically underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. There are programs available from some law school clinics, if the person who needs help happens to be near a law school that provides this, so not always an option. And of course, Bar Associations often offer access to either reduced-rate or free legal support. So options do exist.
However, those in need of legal support are outweighing the available resources.
So, how do we address that?
Self Serve Law
As a provider of legal technology, obviously, we are fans. Technology is an often overlooked solution to increasing efficiency. In fact, of the 1.3 million attorneys in practice in the United States, only 30% have adopted legal tech.
Think about how that compares to, say, the music industry. When is the last time you went to a store to purchase a CD? Technology has entirely transformed the process of listening to music. And it can do the same for law.
There is a way to harness the power of the growing list of self-service law processes that exist. Think of the multitude of online legal forms for something like creating a will. Rather than fight that technology, attorneys can leverage those platforms. So, send a client to the site. Automate that process. And then review the document, make necessary adjustments, and the cost to the client is likely half of what it was prior. Because let's face it, attorneys should be reviewing all of these online documents that are created. The law changes. And every situation is different.
Opening the door of possibility
The first step is attorneys taking up legal tech. Obviously we are fans of case and practice management software. And trust it, it helps. More efficiency in managing the business side of your practice, and making it easier for clients to help in their own matter drives huge benefits. But attorneys must be open to it. From there, the option of partnering with these 'self serve' law site isn't that far. But it does require a shift in thinking on the parts of attorneys.
So, the question becomes which change would you rather see? Change the way you run your firm, leveraging the power of technology, or opening the doors to non-attorneys to provide legal recommendations. We know which we would choose.