Access to legal services

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.”

Law schools have an obligation to introduce innovation and technology disciplines into their curriculum, not just to prepare graduates for the future, but to increase access to legal services.

This from Dan Linna, a professor of law at Michigan State and Director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation. Talking with Ed Sohn about Linna’s Law School Innovation Index:

Everyone needs to get behind solving the “access to legal services” problem. We have this stench, this terrible problem, where approximately 80% of people in the U.S. lack access to civil legal services, not to mention the myriad of problems with our criminal justice system and public defense.

A huge portion of our citizens are disconnected from the law. How is that sustainable for us as a society?

Acting is the right thing to do for all of us in the legal profession.

I’ve tried to answer [President of Legal Services Corporation] Jim Sandman’s call to accelerate legal-service delivery innovation and technology adoption across the legal industry. The overall mission is to increase access to legal services, because it’s the right thing to do, and because the current disenfranchisement of so many threatens the rule of law and democracy.

……

I believe that we need a shared mission and vision. Why are we part of this profession? How can we help people and contribute to something bigger than what’s right in front of us?

The Law School Innovation Index measures the extent to which law schools have incorporated true legal-service delivery innovation and technology disciplines into their curriculum.

Too many legal innovation discussions get stuck talking about efficiency. But we can improve quality and outcomes. We can prevent problems and improve the user experience. We can expand access at all levels and help preserve and expand the rule of law! We can contribute to multidisciplinary teams solving “wicked” problems. We must innovate and think big, especially in law school.

……

Schools have been called innovative for a wide range of activities. Some have built curricula around legal-service delivery innovation and technology disciplines. Others are called innovative because they offer classes about the law of technology, which is great, but it doesn’t address the need for improvements in the delivery of legal services.

Law and technology, a phrase I hear every day (and 55 times a day at conferences), is not enough, per Linna.

If you tell students to take engineering courses because they’ll be better patent lawyers, that’s great, but that sounds like it falls into the “law and” technology category.

Yes, lawyers should work with technologists to learn and shape the law of technology. That’s incredibly important. But we also need law students working with engineers, product managers, behavioral scientists, and other scientists to improve the delivery of legal services.

I recall dinner with Linna in East Lansing a couple years ago in which he presented me a draft of the mission statement for a soon to be LegalRnD. Focused on a the delivery of legal services and the 80% of people who didn’t have access to legal services, I liked it.

Truth be told, I wondered how great an impact he and the Center could have.

But with the Law School Innovation Index and earlier, the Legal Services Innovation Index measuring law firms’ use of tech and innovation, Linna and the Center are having an impact. An impact measured in talk, dialogue and pressure on law firms and law schools to act. But it’s a big start.

Like many legal tech entrepreneurs, I left the practice to help others through innovation and the effective use of technology. But when you get your face up against it in everyday business, it’s easy to lose sight of the end game.

Linna’s work is pulling me back in and motivating me to think big in my use of innovation and technology to bring access to legal services. Asking, “Why are we part of this profession? How can we help people and contribute to something bigger than what’s right in front of us?”

Maybe I’m naive, but I’ve always thought the legal profession as a whole, some lawyers more than others, stood up for the little guy, the consumers if you will.

In that bar associatons are run by lawyers and talk about pro bono work and access to legal services, it would seem to be a natural that they would champion consumer causes — such as access to legal services.

But amongst the good work of bar associations stands the effort of many bar associations to snuff out the use of technology and innovation to bring consumers access to legal services.

The latest comes from the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) in their advisory opinion of a couple weeks ago finding that Avvo’s Legal Services program violates ethics rules.

As reported by the ABA Journal, consumers using Avvo’s Legal Services purchase specific services, such as an uncontested divorce, for a flat fee. For example, when a client receives services from a lawyer through Avvo for $149, Avvo collets a $40 marketing fee.

All of this done on a website, and most probably on Avvo’s mobile site. Makes sense in that consumers purchasing legal services on Avvo would want to do so just the way they purchase everything today. A whopping 70% of Amazon consumers purchase on mobile.

What does the NYSBA offer for access to legal services?

A dated website with limited legal information, much taking consumers to pdf’s on government sites, resulting in a disjointed and confusing experience.

The bar association does have an 800 number call-in lawyer referral service and $35 service for talking to a lawyer. I question how the NYSBA numbers compare to New York consumer traffic on Avvo.

Avvo is a technology company with financial partners whom backed the likes of Zillow, a household name. With a fleet of developers, Avvo brings regular upgrades and feature enhancements. A non-profit voluntary bar association, understandably, could never bring the consumer experience and service Avvo does.

What does the NYSBA find so wrong with Avvo’s access to legal services program?

Avvo benefits finacially from the service. Seriously.

From the ABA Journal, quoting the NYSBA opinion:

Because Avvo lawyers are assigned a rating on a scale of 1 to 10, and “the Avvo website also extols the benefits of being able to work with highly rated lawyers,” While this opinion doesn’t forbid lawyers from using ratings generated by third parties in its advertising, “Avvo Legal Services is different. It is not a third party, but rather the very party that will benefit financially if potential clients hire the lawyers rated by Avvo.”

Rather than looking to leverage technology to improve service, like every other industry, the NYSBA heads in the opposite direction.

I agree with Avvo’s Chief Legal Officer, Josh King in his response to the opinion.

[The NYSBA Opinion] …actively discourages lawyers from using technology to reach out to clients who see an increasing gap between them and meaningful access to the legal system. And if there is one opinion, one voice, in this discussion that should be amplified, it is not that of the New York State Bar Association or of Avvo, but that of the consumer.

Rather than jumping on the NYSBA for limiting access to legal services, all I saw from lawyers and law firms was joy that Avvo took in it the shorts.

There’s plenty I don’t agree with about Avvo, but I’m not going to say good for limiting consumers access to legal services because I don’t like that Avvo salespeople called the lawyers in my firm or that Avvo rates lawyers, the same as Martindale-Hubbell did for 100 years.

I also wouldn’t cheerlead the prevention of lawyers willing to do so from offering fast, simple and cost effective flat fee legal services. It didn’t work for cities looking to prevent drivers from Uber lifts and it shouldn’t work for a trade association looking to prevent lawyers from helping consumers.

Of course we can split hairs as to “If only Avvo just did this or that, the NYSBA would have said all’s good.” I don’t buy it. I see bars, with some exceptions, jumping on Avvo, LegalZoom and RocketLawyer as if it were sport.

Lawyers, if they truly care about access to legal services, are going to need to come to grips that the solutions to do so are likely to come through the private sector. It’s the private sector which has driven change and consumer services across the Internet.

The delivery of legal services will look different than in the past. Companies, and their investors, will make money in the process.

But that’ll be okay for those of us standing up for the little guy — consumers.

Spending four days this week at AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) I was blown away by the amount of legal tech driving the law. I was also struck again by legal tech companies failure to use Internet engagement to learn, to collaborate with other legal tech companies and to get known.

Legal tech entrepreneurs don’t seem to use the net to share their thoughts on what they are following in tech, to engage other legal tech folks, to share what they are working on so as to learn and get feedback or to get known.

It’s a little odd since much of the technology driving legal technology is open source. A lot of legal tech is driven and supported by the collaboration of open source tech communities regularly sharing, networking and learning online.

It’s also odd in that a lot of legal tech companies are starved for attention. They’ve got cool stuff of value to companies and law firms. They just don’t get heard among all the noise and wrongly think it’s going to take money for ads, booths, PR and marketing.

I have followed numerous people share openly online what they were learning and what they were working on. The result was their getting known, being trusted as an industry leader and getting business.

I was one of them. I didn’t have a clue what blogs were nor the technology they ran on – software, machines for hosting – and a lot more. I followed smart people online and shared what they said and wrote along with my take on my blog, Twitter and other social media.

I learned by what I read and from the network that I grew. The network in turned talked about me and what I shared. My company and I got known, trusted and we got business. I also got smarter from just formulating my ideas by what I read and blogged — “you don’t know what you know until you blog it.”

I talked to one legal tech entrepreneur at AALL about the idea of a legal tech network of blogs, kind of like the Law School Blog Network we started early this year. Everyone gets their own blog and the benefit of LexBlog’s WordPress platform for the law (seven turnkey elements), including coaching, visibility and a network site of curated legal tech posts.

I mentioned it to another legal tech entrepreneur online today. Both seemed interested. Rather than free, as with schools, we’d probably charge something around $50 per month to keep it affordable.

Legal tech is critically important. As Ed Walters, the CEO of Fastcase, said at AALL, “software is going to drive access to justice and access to legal services.” It’s not going to be people alone.

We need to help legal tech companies get better at what they do, collaborate with each other (for learning and integrating solutions where it makes sense), to get known so they have customers make use of good legal technology, to make legal services more accessible and to make money so as to fuel more development and growth.

I think publishing/blogging can help.