How Technology is Changing the Legal Profession

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Person on a laptop searching for legal adviceSo many industries have already been “disrupted” by technology. For example, people are using Uber instead of taking taxis, and travelers are staying in Airbnb rooms rather than hotel rooms.

Will the legal profession be the next target for “disruption”? It’s already happening, and lawyers are worried.

They should be. Recent studies from McKinsey & Co and MIT showed that from 13 to 23% of what lawyers do can be automated.

Lawyers are Worried

The American Bar Association is the leading organization for attorneys in the US. Recently, the ABA’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services published an “Issues Paper Concerning Unregulated LSP Entities.”

An “LSP” is a “legal service provider.” Lawyers, of course, are “legal service providers.” They’re also regulated by state bar associations. You have to be a member of a state bar in order to practice law, and lawyers are subject to discipline (including disbarment) if they’re dishonest or incompetent.

What the ABA is concerned about is UN-regulated entities that provide legal services to consumers. But the ABA hasn’t yet figured out exactly what kinds of LSPs lawyers should be worried about.

At the very broadest, a definition of LSPs could include publishers of legal information like FreeAdvice that also help consumers find lawyers to help them.

LSPs also include services that provide automated legal services online or via mobile app. For example, LawGeex (a company I work with) uses artificial intelligence to review contracts. Shake enables the creating, signing, and sending of legally binding agreements via a mobile app. Willing allows people to create their own wills.

The Practice of Law

In addition to not being clear about what types of LSPs should be worrisome to lawyers, the ABA also couldn’t agree on a definition of “the practice of law.” The ABA suggested that this should be left up to the individual states.

States are already working at revising their definitions. For example, North Carolina House Bill 436 would exclude from the statutory definition of “the practice of law” the operation of a website that gives consumers access to interactive software that generates legal documents.

Agencies of the US government have issued a statement in support of the Bill.

The staffs of the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice noted that

Overbroad scope-of-practice and unauthorized-practice-of-law policies can restrict competition between licensed attorneys and non-attorney providers of legal services, increasing the prices consumers must pay for legal services, and reducing consumers’ choices.

The agencies noted that for millions of Americans, especially those with low and moderate incomes, there’s a “well-known crisis in access to legal services.” The ABA’s own LSP white paper recognized that:

[a]ccording to most estimates, about four-fifths of the civil legal needs of the poor, and two- to three-fifths of the needs of middle-income individuals, remain unmet. (Prof. Deborah Rhode, Stanford Law School)

Online legal service providers, including publishers like FreeAdvice, can help meet the needs of those underserved consumers.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption