Technology is changing the legal world. Maybe not as fast as other areas of our life, but disruption is coming.
The unfortunate truth is that millions of American do not have access to basic legal services. It seems that in 2015, with a plethora of law school graduates looking for work and vast improvements in law office efficiency, that meeting the legal needs of the masses would not be an issue. Lawyers have come a long way from using typewriters, white-out and manual filing. In today’s world, document automation, e-discovery and instant e-filings are used in law firms across the nation. But as legal efficiency continues to go up, the price of a lawyer has not come down, making legal services unaffordable and inaccessible for most of middle America and all of the low-income population.
Legal issues, when unresolved, often have major negative impacts with lifelong consequences. The lack of access to justice disproportionally affects low-income populations who usually have the most legal needs. Legal aid organizations, tasked with meeting these needs, are chronically underfunded and understaffed, forcing them to turn away millions seeking help every year. When the demand for legal services far exceeds the recourses currently available, it’s known as the “justice gap.”
Because legal processes can be extraordinarily confusing and are constantly changing, the public is not able to effectively navigate the system themselves. When individuals attempt to tackle their legal issue without attorney assistance, the outcome is generally unsatisfactory. Pro-se litigants also put a huge strain on the court system, costing time and money that could be better used elsewhere.
Our legal system is outdated, overpriced and cannot keep up with the needs of our country. This is in part because of age-old “traditions” and “rules” that support non-competition, discourage innovation and reject alternative business structures that have the potential to drastically improve access to high-volume, low-margin legal needs that the majority of Americans face. What is standing in the way of national access to justice and how can we change it? The answer lies in the creation of new technologies that will decrease the need for an attorney’s attention and hourly fees, while still providing customized and quality services.