Jordan Furlong

Rise of the machines

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  • Although this article refers to the referenced companies as “disruptors,” the article also correctly notes that those companies “haven’t created one single new legal product, service or practice area.” They’ve simply automated some relatively low-level functions traditionally performed by solicitors, allowing those companies to pick some low-hanging fruit. The impact of the Legal Services Act, which allows non-lawyers to sell legal services in England and Wales, can be expected to be similarly modest.
    Readers that are interested in truly disruptive technology will want to familiarize themselves with systems that can be used to radically reduce the costs and inefficiencies associated with higher-end legal services. Most of the high-end services consist, in whole or in part, of assisting clients involved in what boils down to a bargaining process, either overt bargaining (of the kind that is, in the UK, normally facilitated by solicitors), or tacit bargaining (which is normally carried out by barristers in the UK and by litigators in the US, where all but a tiny percentage of cases are ultimately resolved through bargaining rather than trial).
    Tech-savvy companies and lawyers are already using truly disruptive technologies to dispense with the forms of bargaining that have historically formed the core of legal work. See, for example, the various on-line, game-theoretic bargaining systems that can be used for a small fee (and in some cases for free) at http://wwwmfairoutcomes.com. Each of these systems utilizes procedures that have been described in independent academic studies as substantially improving upon the various forms of overt and tacit bargaining traditionally engaged in by lawyers.

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  • Two more good news points to add to Jordan Furlong's two plusses of the increase in legal tech: (1) law firms can make more money being more efficient. (2) While some legal tech (like LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer) is focused on stepping in for lawyers to meet client needs, other systems are trying to improve how lawyers practice (Westlaw or Lexis, Intelligize, us). These systems seek to take care of (sometimes more repetitive, less thought intensive) parts of legal practice, leaving lawyers more time to focus on work worth their billable rate.

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  • Agree with everything you say, except for one thing: From everything I've seen, the commercial online legal service providers deliver an abysmally poor quality product. This does not detract from your main message, but I would suggest that lawyers, in addition to adopting the main recommendations of this article, not stop talking about the superior quality of their services.

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