Access to legal services

How many of us championing greater access to legal success have tried LegalZoom? Not as our primary means to legal services, but to learn what can work in increasing access to legal services?

This afternoon I received the below email from LegalZoom:

It’s National Make-A-Will Month—let’s do this!

National Make-A-Will Month is almost over. We know you want to look out for your family—and we want to help you take care of your planning with a just-added, special 10% discount on an Estate Plan. Independent attorneys are available to answer your questions and guide you through the process.

Remember, even if you don’t have all the information to complete your Estate Plan, get the savings now, and then finish when you’re ready.

Isn’t it time you finally cross “making a will” off your list?

Use discount code PROTECT18.

The email wasn’t an ad.

I am a member of LegalZoom – or better put, my company, LexBlog is. We paid $216 a few months ago for a “Business Advisory Plan 6 Month Membership.”

A few different reasons we joined.

  1. We were looking for an attorney to look at the terms of service on some of our sites. Fairly standard stuff, but we wanted to look at updating some things. I found it tough to find a lawyer with niche expertise and much, much harder to find a lawyer who would give us a flat rate. One lawyer sent me a fee agreement that spelled out little more than the hourly rates of a list of lawyers as measured by years practicing, not expertise. Our offer to pay an annual subscription fee set by the law firm for three years for terms of service related work, no matter whether we use them or not in the last two years, was totally blown off.
  2. We have a general counsel who is in private practice and we use specialists on other matters – a litigation matter and a privacy/security are two matters where we hired a specialist. But there are routine matters such as minutes and bylaws which LegalZoom had forms by state which we could just complete and store and not bother our general counsel to who we pay a flat annual fee. It’s not the type of stuff he wants to do and it may be easier to just do such work internally so it’s readily available and easy to update as needed.
  3. Most importantly I am a vocal advocate of increasing access to legal services. How can it be done? And particularly, how can it be done through the use of qualified lawyers. Having drawn, then $200 million in funding (now $700 million) and having probably the best known brand in the law, I needed to know as best I could what LegalZoom was all about. Why do they have 3 million members? Why do they have a net promoter score (NPS) that trails Apple, Amazon and Zappos by a bit, but blows away that of law firms?

Though I have spent time bouncing around LegalZoom’s member site and offerings, I’ll confess we have not used the LegalZoom member services yet. Our failure to do so on items like corporate minutes and the like is more out of our lawyer just doing them already, more than any inadequacies of LegalZoom.

The email I received made wonder how many of us in the legal industry are LegalZoom members.

How could you be working on or talking about the issue of access to legal services without knowing intimately what is making LegalZoom work for so many people? Lawyers, bar leaders, law professors and entrepreneurs – how many of you have used LegalZoom?

Those of us leading companies know all too well that we need to know as best we can what the competition is doing. What is attracting people to them? What are they doing better? What could we learn from them?

No question LegalZoom is a competitor on the legal services front, especially in the minds of their customers.

LegalZoom, not saying they are ideal, is doing something right to attract so many users, so much in revenue and so much in funding. There has to be something to be learned from them if you’re an advocate of increasing access to legal services.

What forms could be used? How could those forms be used in SaaS based solutions? How do we keep the forms current? Where does the lawyer step into the process after a user has done the work the lawyer doesn’t want to do? How do you build a network of independent lawyers who make more annually in a network like LegalZoom’s than they made in their existing law firm?

This is just some of what we could learn. Maybe bar associations and law firms could see ways to use services from LegalZoom to generate more work for lawyers – and make lawyers more accessible to the public. I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that LegalZoom can or should replace lawyers. I lead a company whose mission it is to increase access to legal services – via trusted and authoritative lawyers serving inviduals and corporations.

I just know less and less people are using lawyers. Not just because of cost, but because of a lack of trust of lawyers and the inefficiencies for all in lawyers not using the technology and innovation we’ve become accustomed to in the delivery of other services.

It behooves us to look at LegalZoom and what it’s doing for both the consumers of legal services and lawyers.

Want to join me in subscribing?

Law blogs published by practicing lawyers, particularly blogs published on niches, improve people’s access to legal services.

“People” refers to any and all of us — consumers, small business people, executive directors, corporate executives and in-house counsel.

I’ve never talked with a lawyer publishing a good law blog who hasn’t found that many of the people who contact her or him felt more comfortable doing so because of the lawyer’s blog.

Makes all the sense in the world.

Imagine looking for doctor in a speciality for a relative in anther city. Google the city and the speciality. You’re apt to get hospital and clinic websites done by marketing people.

Areas of Expertise: Dr. B’s expertise includes clinical cardiology, interventional cardiology, echocardiography and nuclear cardiology.
Special Interests: Dr. B has special interest in coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.
Personal Information: Dr. B enjoys literature, arts and the outdoors.

Really, I am supposed to make a decision on a doctor based on that info or maybe by calling another doctor who will say Dr. B is a good guy and does a nice job in surgery.

Now imagine a doctor who blogged, maybe on their approach to working with patients or on topics advancing the treatment of coronary heart disease by referencing the writings of other doctors in the field, nation and world-wide.

Imagine that doctor’s blog posts being cited by doctors and shared on social media. It happens, even in the most complicated fields.

What do you know in your search for a doctor? This doctor stays up to speed in their field, they’re widely respected by peers, they are a giving person – not only to the medical profession, but to patents and the public.

Who do you trust? Who is more approachable?

It’s the same with lawyers. Imagine a family law lawyer in Springfield, Illinois blogging about domestic abuse issues.

She shares experiences, without blowing confidences. She shares information about the resources and organizations that a battered spouse kicked out of the family home with children and no money can turn to.

A victim in Springfield can Google “domestic abuse,” without even including Springfield, and retrieve the lawyer’s blog at the top of the search results.

More importantly than the information and blog posts on the lawyer’s blog is the immediate trust the victim develops in the lawyer. An intimate level of trust without ever having met the lawyer or being told anything about the lawyer.

And what is the victim apt to do? Call the lawyer. Amazing in a day when people have legal needs the last thing they would do is call a lawyer. It’s obvious why. People just don’t trust lawyers.

Lawyer profiles on law firm websites are just as bad as that doc’s profile. They tell us nothing about the lawyer from which we trust the lawyer enough to call them. We’ll call them only as a last resort.

We’re not talking about just consumers getting access to legal services via blogs. There isn’t an in-house counsel at Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, Google or Facebook who dosesn’t come to trust the insight and information on niche focused law blogs published by practicing lawyers.

Blogs that develop trust in the lawyer and result in the hiring of lawyers, whether done via the blog itself, seeing the lawyer speak at a conference, or having the lawyer referred because of their growing name.

Access to legal services, by its definition requires identifying a lawyer who knows what they’re doing in the area in which you have a need. Calling a buddy (even a lawyer), business colleague, relative or friend is no assurance you’ll get such a lawyer.

In the last decade while organizations and associations have studied the access to legal services problem — and while people are seeking legal services from other than lawyers — we’ve grown from a nation of hundreds of legal bloggers to a nation of thousands of legal bloggers.

We have a long way to go, but law blogs are improving people’s access to legal services — and access to skilled lawyers.

A report (pdf) commissioned by the State Bar of California found what most of us recognize already. Bar associatons are impeding access to legal services.

As a sizable portion of the public struggles to afford a lawyer and a sizable portion of the bar struggles to find sufficient fee-paying client work, legal regulators need to seriously evaluate whether the consumer protection benefits of these ethics rules are worth the cost.

The study and report perfomed by William Henderson, a professor at the University of Indiana Maurer School of Law and well known for the study and execution of legal innovation, was done as part of California Bar task force’s consideration of changes to ethics rules that limit the use of legal technology and forbid nonlawyers from owning legal service companies.

Reviewing the report for the ABA Journal, Jason Tashea makes clear the decline in legal services market.

  • National Center for State Courts report, cited by Henderson, that looked at nearly 1 million civil cases from 10 urban counties found that 76 percent of cases involved at least one party who was self-represented, about double the rate from a comparable study 20 years earlier.
  • Unlike other personnel-heavy industries that have grown more expensive, like higher education and medicine, people are forgoing legal services.
  • In 1987, legal services made up 0.435 percent of spending allocation in the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers. In 2016, that number had dropped by more than 40 percent to 0.245 percent. In contrast, college tuition and medicine saw increases in spending of 120.3 percent and 77.6 percent, respectively.
  • Fewer people seeking legal services led to a decrease of this market sector by more than 10 percent between 2007 and 2011, at a loss of $7 billion.
  • Cost pressure on corporate clients has led to more legal work going in-house and a rise of well-financed alternative legal service providers, which cut into the traditional corporate legal market.

Henderson informed the Bar that:

[M]odifying the ethics rules to facilitate greater collaboration across law and other disciplines will (1) drive down costs; (2) improve access; (3) increase predictability and transparency of legal services; (4) aid the growth of new businesses; and (5) elevate the reputation of the legal profession.

The sad part of this all is that the task force’s final report isn’t due until December 31, 2019. Presumably they’ll make a recommendation to the State Bar, who will prsumably assign action on ethics rules to a committee of theirs.

Though Henderson concluded some U.S. jurisdiction needs to go first and based on historical precedent the most likely jurisdiction is California, bar action taken to bring greater access to legal services while helping the average lawyer is unlikely to come anytime soon.

Law is too important to be left to the lawyers.

This from Richard Granat, a true champion when it comes to harnessing innovation and technology to improve American’s access to legal services.

Granat shared this in a Facebook comment in reference to society’s leaving it to lawyers and lawyer controlled bar associations to decide how legal services are delivered in this country.

By and large, it’s bar associations that decide what innovation and legal technology gets used in the delivery of legal services. Not a great situation for the public when bar associations exist to represent the interests of lawyers who earn by time, not efficiency.

Granat is not alone.

Gillian Hadfield, a leading proponent of the reform and redesign of legal systems and a Professor at USC Law School, commented this week on bar associations limiting access to legal services in, of all places, the American Bar Association’s Law Technology Today magazine.

A week ago, Mary Juetten, co-founder of Evolve Law and founder and CEO of Traklight, a self-guided IP strategy platform, wrote about bar associations driving small legal tech companies out of business on the pretense that legal tech business models violate the unauthorized practice of law rules.

Juetten questioned what the bar associations were actually protecting.

I have some great friends working with and for bar associations. LexBlog has the honor of working with any number of bar associations.

But should bar associations be deciding what is and what is not legal services that require a lawyer? Are bar associations, by restricting what they describe as legal services to being administered by lawyers, just making lawyers more and more irrelevant to individuals and small businesses?

Is it possible that bar associations by looking to protect lawyers are actually hurting lawyers? With less people looking for legal services administered the way they are, there is less and less work for lawyers. We’re already seeing less lawyers.

While the American Bar Association and state bar associations look to be the hub of discussion on access to legal services, and even innovation and legal technology, there is a growing sentiment that bars may be the reason for the increasing chasm we have in access to legal services.

Robert Ambrogi, LexBlog’s editor-chief and publisher and former editor of the National Law Journal, explained a couple months ago to a Chicago gathering of legal professionals discussing an effort to bring access to legal services, that the American Bar Association and many bar associations could not lead the effort because of their role as a trade organization.

Juetten may well be right that it’s not an “either or” situation, as she tweeted immediately after I published my post. In the absence of another body, bar associations could include non lawyers and private companies on their governing boards.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m with Granat. “Law is too important to be left to the lawyers.

LexBlog’s Bob Ambrogi reports that North Carolina is close to mandating technology training for lawyers.

The North Carolina State Bar Council has approved a proposed amendment to lawyers’ annual CLE requirements that would mandate that one hour of the required 12 hours of CLE training annually be devoted to technology training.

The council adopted the proposed amendment on April 20. The proposed amendment now goes to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval.

North Carolina, Ambrogi reports, is only the second state to mandate technology aptitude.

In 2016, Florida became the first state to mandate technology training for lawyers, when it adopted a rule requiring lawyers to complete three hours of CLE every three years “in approved technology programs.”

I couldn’t help but feel the irony of it all when reading Ambrogi’s report.

It was just a couple days ago I was reading a piece by Richard Granat, a champion on the use of technology for greater access to justice, on North Carolina legislation (pdf) restricting the use of technology to provide access to legal services.

Under the guise of consumer protection, North Carolina has passed new legislation, at the direction of the North Carolina Bar, that imposes restrictions on distributing self-help legal software over the Internet.  Rather than protecting consumers, this legislation is a frightened response by the North Carolina Bar to protect their lawyer’s incomes from the impact of advances in Internet technology that provide new ways for people to solve their legal problems at low cost.

The restrictions are so severe that the result is to deprive North Carolina’s citizens of low cost solutions to solving many legal problems, inhibits innovation in developing legal solutions by an emerging self-help legal software industry, stifles competition  from self-help legal software publishers, and will eliminate any possibility of private investment in self-help legal software development.

Then yesterday I read a piece from Mary Juetten, co-founder of Evolve Law and founder and CEO of Traklight, a self-guided IP strategy platform, on state bar associations driving small legal tech companies out of business on the pretense that legal tech business models violate the unauthorized practice of law rules.

One of them attempting do so recently, per Juetten – Florida, in the face of the Department of Justice.

Late last year, TIKD [app that enables indiduals to easily contest tickets] sued The Florida Bar (Bar) and The Ticket Clinic for colluding to put TIKD out of business. The Bar claims it can violate federal antitrust law with impunity because it is an “arm of the state.” In its Statement of Interest, the DOJ seems to understand the link to access to affordable legal services:

“To be sure, new and innovative mobile device apps can be disruptive. Business models entrenched for decades have witnessed new competition from mobile platforms that can profoundly change an industry. But almost invariably, the winners from the process of innovation and competition are consumers. …”

Anyone else see the irony of bar associations mandating legal technology training for their lawyers while outlawing the use of technology that brings access to legal services to the eighty or ninety percent of Americans for whom legal services are absolutely irrelevant?

Imagine if the FAA said airlines could not use technology for selling tickets to passengers. Passengers would need to contact a travel agency or the airline directly to get their ticket mailed out.

Yes, it will mean higher prices and and a gross inconvenience, but as a result of rules consumers cannot understand and a desire to protect jobs, that’s just the way it is with airlines and its governing body.

But do know that the FAA is requiring of all pilots, flight attendants, ticket agents, gate agents, airport attendants and airline office employees mandatory technology training. They’ll be magic with iPads, PDFs, word processing, form submissions to agencies and so much more.

Isn’t it the same here? Bar associations outlawing what consumers need, the effective delivery of legal services realized through legal technology.

Do consumers of legal services, individuals or businesses, cry out for the need for mandatory technology training for lawyers? Something that bar associations will be very, very hard pressed to demonstrate its nexus with greater access to legal services?

I get that lawyers should be using technology to practice law effectively, mandatory training or not.

The cynical side of me says though when you make it manadatory you may be doing so to mask your real bias against legal technology.

The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct make fairly clear that lawyers have a duty to bring about access to the legal system on behalf of the public. Today, this means seeing that technology that can help bring access to legal services be used to do so.

The preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct makes it the duty of lawyer entrepreneurs driving innovation and technology, like me, as well as lawyers in regulatory bodies do all we can to deliver access to legal services to the American public. Not just for the impoverished, who may or may not be entitled to legal services and pro bono services, but for the vast majority of Americans who have no effective access to legal services.

These are model rules, until adopted by individual states, and this is a preamble. But it would be a sad reflection on our profession if lawyers interpreted gaps in ethical guidelines to avoid addressing a problem we’ve arguably created.

From the preamble:

[6] As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law and work to strengthen legal education. In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority. A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Therefore, all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel. A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest. (emphasis added)

When I shared paragraph six with my comments about lawyers in general and those in legal tech companies over on Facebook, Dan Linna, who’s been a leader on the legal innovation and technology front, commented:

I agree that we lawyers should live up to these ideals. I’m afraid that this preamble and lawyers’ commitment to the public and justice generally ring hollow to most people as mere platitudes. We lawyers can change the narrative. There are many opportunities to lead, work with other professionals, and help create a better future!

Linna’s right. We can’t reduce to a mere platitude a lawyer’s comittment to seeing that the public has access to legal services. When it’s done, we need change the narrative and work to create a better future.

Legal tech entrepreneurs, at least those who are lawyers, have a duty to seek access to legal services in the work they are doing. Many are doing so. Other legal tech companies are focused on large dollar transactions and litigation among large law and corporations, all of whom already have access to legal services.

Legal tech entrepreneurs are not alone in their obligation. Lawyers, particularly those in regulatory and licensing bodies, have a golden opportunity to improve access to the legal services. More than an opportunity, they have the duty to do so, per paragraph six.

Rather than meeting their obligation, some bar associations, presumably guided by their lawyers, have taken stances against innovation and technology that could have improved access to legal services.

Look at Avvo’s fixed feed fee legal services which a number of bar associations brought to a halt by telling lawyers it would be unethical to render legal services as part of the Avvo service. The reason being a bit of a stretch — that lawyers would be splitting fees with a non-lawyer as a result of Avvo’s marketing fee.

Rather than meetIng their duty of improving access to the legal system and legal services, the bar lawyers turned the other way.

Bankruptcy trustees, also lawyers, are standing in the way of legal technology expediting the processing of bankruptcy filings in the name that doing so would be improperly unbundling legal services.

Rather than debate legal technology and split hairs to prevent its use, let’s change the narrative and focus on our ethical obligation to effectively use technology to bring access to legal services.

The transition to a new world is the hands of the old.

This from author, consultant and speaker, Euan Semple addressing the biggest challenge to digital transformation.

Those who can bring themselves to use the phrase “Digital Transformation” are invariably those who least understand, or would like, its implications.

The true transformation of a digital culture is in behaviours and interactions between people. It is in the ability to more directly connect with each other in the workplace, to reduce unnecessary steps and overheads, and to be able to adapt and respond to challenges more quickly. All of this threatens the status quo and the authority of many of the gatekeepers who have, until now, been deemed necessary.

Reading Euan’s post, I couldn’t help but think of the roadblock to the adoption of legal technology and innovation across the legal industry. Whether it’s law firms, bar associations, or even legal technology associations, the transformation to digital, the use of technology, social media, and efficient solutions is often in the hands of the old guard.

Law firms can’t do this or that when it comes to the use of the Internet for networking to build trust, learn and engage people.

  • We cannot have a lawyer post blog posts without them being reviewed by someone senior.
  • We cannot have lawyers post their posts directly to the publishing platform directly, marketing needs to do that for them.
  • We cannot have lawyers using their personal Facebook accounts to engage clients, referral sources, business colleagues and others.
  • We don’t have lawyers posting their blog posts to the lawyer’s LinkedIn accounts so as to engage those who may comment on or like the post, our marketing people control that.
  • We don’t have lawyers with personal Twitter accounts for following news, engaging influencers or sharing posts, we have one account for the blog on which a lawyer is an author.

If not directly mandated by the old guard, such limitations come because the old guard does not understand how the Internet works for learning, engaging people, building trust and business development. Those below fear taking a stand.

The vast majority of people in this country have no access to legal services. Yet bar associations adopt ethics rules to stifle innovation and efficiency brought by legal technology companies to improve access to legal services in the name that consumers need to be protected.

Very few law firms have adopted technology solutions and processes in the delivery of legal services. The old guard, understandably, wants to use billable hours in charging for services, charges that would be eroded by improving the delivery of legal services.

Bar associations, legal technology associations and legal technology conferences are often led by executive directors and boards that do not use the most powerful tool they have at their disposal – the Internet – to engage their constituents, the influencers of their audience, the public and the media.

Rather than use the Twitter, Facebook and blogging to listen, to connect and lead change, these folks wear it as a badge of honor that they have no time for such interaction, let alone learn what’s about.

  • I wish I had the time that the associate general counsel of a $100 billion company, a law school dean and a practicing lawyer has to use twitter, but I have a full time job.
  • It’s not up to me as executive director of a bar association to use social media to connect with members who are leaving my association in spades.
  • I don’t feel comfortable using Facebook like managing partners, other law firm executives, and legal company CEO’s do.
  • It’s not my responsibility as a board member of a legal technology association “leading change” and running conferences to stay abreast of relevant online discussion or to engage constituents through the net.

Sure law firms, bar associations, legal technology associations and traditional legal publishers will talk technology and innovation. Publications and conferences are abuzz with the topics. But do they want transformation.

…[M]ost organisations want tinkering rather than transformation. They would rather rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic than face the true challenges of “Digital.” They find it easier to digitise their dysfunctions than to face up to them.

This is human nature.

The brave will try harder

Well said, Euan.

Leave it to legal tech innovator and law professor, Bill Henderson to be part of a new nonprofit, the Institute for the Future of Law Practice, that will coordinate the entry level law school market around an updated and modernized curriculum.

Traditional legal service models are breaking down. Law students are graduating from law school unprepared for the demands of the consumers of legal services, assuming even law firms are.

Law schools, like many law firms, are debating the need for change without taking the action needed. They’re often paralyzed by traditional bureaucracy.

A core group of lawyers, legal educators, allied professionals and corporate legal leaders (Shell, Cisco, Archer Daniels Midland)  — many of whom I know well via common beliefs on innovation and tech —  believe that the best way forward is to create an independent organization that can coordinate the interests of law students, law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments, NewLaw service providers, and legal technology companies.

The Institute will provide both training programs for law students and a talent pipeline for the legal industry’s most advanced and sophisticated legal employers.

Through internships companies get the unique opportunity to access a pre-screened pool of specially trained candidates. Students get real-world experience, while learning from professionals in leading organizations.

The Institute has already made good progress in its pilot.

  • The Institute has worked with over 80 students. Students completed an academic program and worked at leading companies.
  • The Institute is working with 20 leading companies that offer students real-world experience.
  • For the 2018 application cycle, the Institute is partnering with the law schools at Colorado, Indiana, Northwestern, and Osgoode Hall (Toronto).

Boot Camps

Clients have for years been complaining about their lawyers’ inability to understand the business climate in which they operate, to manage processes, projects and risks, and to cost and price effectively and in a manner that equates price and value.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and it will certainly be on display in New Orleans this week at the Legal Aid Technology Conference.

The annual conference, sponsored by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the nation’s largest gathering of professionals dedicated to using technology to address the civil legal needs of low-income Americans.

The conference, billed this year as Innovations in Tech, brings together technologists, legal aid advocates, court personnel, academics, and other professionals to showcase technology projects and tools being implemented across the country and internationally. I am glad I was able to get in as the conference, expecting record attendance, is sold out.

For me, I’m looking for inspiration from some of the most dedicated professionals in legal tech.

I last attended the conference fifteen years ago, I was starting a legal tech non-profit to help individuals and small business people. I was blown away by the energy, passion and ideas of the legal services technology professionals in attendance.

While there are other good conferences focused on consumer electronics, marketing and technology, it feels right to be headed to New Orleans – to learn, to be inspired and get focused on ways LexBlog and I can contribute to the legal services’ cause.

LSC President, Jim Sandman, who invited LexBlog’s editor-in-chief and publisher, Bob Ambrogi, to give the plenary address, knows how important technology is in the delivery of legal services.

Technology plays an important role in making legal information widely accessible. This conference stimulates collaboration, creativity, and communication. It promotes new initiatives that will help make justice more accessible for Americans who cannot afford to pay for legal assistance.

Ambrogi, in his plenary on Wednesday morning, will explore the impediments to the broader use of technology and what can be done to overcome them.

Few would dispute that technology is one of the keys to addressing the justice gap—the difference between the need for civil legal services among low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs. Yet at a time when technological innovation abounds, the justice gap seems to grow only wider. The problem is not technology—it is the failure to fully employ it.

Highlights of the three day conference, ending Friday, include:

  • Incubating Innovation in the Aloha and Midnight Sun States: Updates on the Justice Portal Initiative
  • Emerging Technologies: Harnessing the Exponential Power of Digital Technology to Transform Legal Systems
  • Rapid Fire Tech: A Show and Tell of Technology Projects and Ideas

Over 125 speakers from around the country are scheduled to present on all sorts of challenges, technology, solutions and the programs they’re spearheading to bring legal services to lower income Americans.

LexBlog is blessed to be able to cover the conference by curating the social media coverage from conference attendees, Facebook Live interviews, blog posts and my tweets from the conference. We’ll see what Isabelle Minasian, LexBlog’s social media and editorial coordinator can cook up.

Look me up if you’re going to be there. I’d welcome meeting, and maybe cover what you’re working on.

The conference Twitter hashtag is #LSCITCon.

A year ago today, marketer and author, Seth Godin shared that it’s never enough.

There are more people, better off, with more freedom, more agency and more power than at any other time in our history.

That’s not enough.

As we use technology and culture to create more health, more access and more dignity for more people, we keep reminding ourselves how inadequate it is in the face of the injustice and pain that remains.

That’s how we get better.

Better not for us, but better so as to serve others.

We must focus on the less fortunate and the oppressed not because the world isn’t getting better but because it is.

It’s our attention to those on the fringes that causes the world to get better.

I relayed to a business colleague in D.C. today that I was feeling the enjoyment of the Christmas season while sensing thr anxiety of wanting to do more in the coming year. I explained that my goals need to be more admirable as I get on in age. I have less time to make a dent.

Legal services remain more inaccessible to middle and lower income Americans than ever. At the same time there are more lawyers than ever looking for legal work.

Not necessarily lawyers for which corporate or large law is the goal. But lawyers who would like to do work for consumers and small business people, if it was possible to get the work.

My LexBlog team has done incredible work over the last couple years to scale a design and publishing platform that offers more and costs less than ever before. It seems we’re on the verge of doing something quite disruptive.

But what will it mean if we don’t use our technology, in part, to improve access to legal services while at the same time help lawyers.

Almost twenty years, Will Hornsby, staff counsel for the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, authored a piece (PDF) on “Improving the Delivery of Affordable Legal Services Through the Internet: A Blueprint for the Shift to a Digital Paradigm.” I ran across his work while doing research over the weekend.

With detailed analysis, including legal web sites and technology of the day, Hornsby showed us how the net could be harnessed to make legal services and meaningful legal information available to moderate income people.

Reading and outlining the 31 page piece (example sites and footnotes included), I became terribly inspired. One that action was necessary and two, that LexBlog’s technology could help make legal services more accessible.

Hornsby argued that the Internet had the potential to make client development more efficient (lower cost, less time comittment) for lawyers representing consumers and small business people. Maybe even client development founded on reputation, relationships and trust.

Efficient client development — as well as meaningful legal information for people — is where LexBlog can play.

As we head into next year, we’ll “keep reminding ourselves how inadequate [technology] is in the face of the injustice and pain that remains.”