Posted by: Ray Brescia | March 25, 2016

Could “Uber for Lawyers” Be a Thing and Could It Improve Access to Justice?

In a forthcoming piece in the Buffalo Law Review, I explore whether a sharing economy approach to the delivery of legal services, an “Uber for Lawyers,” could possibly improve access to justice for low- and moderate-income communities and potentially improve job prospects and even job satisfaction in the legal profession.  The article is entitled “Uber for Lawyers: The Transformative Potential of a Sharing Economy Approach to the Delivery of Legal Services.”  

A draft of the article is available now and here’s the link.

Here’s the abstract:

While many industries are facing challenges from new companies employing so-called “sharing economy” models of service delivery, those companies are bringing benefits to consumers while also operating at times in a legal vacuum, where the regulatory infrastructure seems incapable of responding adequately to the need for appropriate oversight that both encourages innovation but builds consumer trust and provides consumer protection.  The legal profession, however, is an industry that has deployed features of sharing economy models for nearly the last two centuries, and, as a result, is an industry that has developed a sophisticated infrastructure for regulating actors within the industry deploying approaches that share sharing economy characteristics, although they have not leveraged new technologies the way sharing economy providers have done to date.  Advances in the delivery of legal services are making a true sharing economy approach closer to reality, however.  Indeed, a technology-enabled, sharing economy approach to the delivery of legal services, if instituted, could bring benefits to consumers seeking such services, while offering the consumer protections that regulation of the legal profession already has in place, sidestepping some of the consumer protection concerns the sharing economy raises. What this Article explores is whether a true sharing economy approach to the delivery of legal services—“Uber for Lawyers”—is a viable model for the legal profession.  It attempts to address the ways in which new, technology-enabled organizations are changing the way in which legal services are being delivered in the United States, with a particular focus on LegalZoom, as well as a new model for the delivery of legal services that offers what I call “Just in Time/Just Enough Services.” Such an approach would (1) be situated within a sophisticated regulatory infrastructure that would encourage innovation while preserving consumer protection and (2) increase access to and affordability of legal services.  It would open up new opportunities for lawyers to exercise their skills and practice their craft. Such an approach might therefore serve the ends of tapping into the latent market for legal services, increasing access to justice, and improving both lawyer job satisfaction as well as employment prospects.

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