From the Magna Carta to LegalZoom

first_img From the Magna Carta to LegalZoom From the Magna Carta to LegalZoom July 15, 2016 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News ‘ We lawyers need to lead the disruption and not be disrupted by others. And the window is closing on our ability to lead the change’ Senior Editor Immediate past ABA President William Hubbard recently gave a talk to a Rotary Club in South Carolina on the rapidly changing legal marketplace. When he returned to his table, three 80-year-old men sharing it with him confided they each had recently used LegalZoom, the online provider of legal forms. One had formed a corporation; the second did a partnership agreement; and the third did a will. “In the lyrics of Carole King, ‘I feel the earth move under my feet,’” said Hubbard, the Judicial Luncheon speaker at The Florida Bar Annual Convention in June. In a brisk 20-minute speech, Hubbard traced legal history and legal access from the Magna Carta to the current technology revolution where online nonlawyer companies are offering legal forms and services to consumers. The Magna Carta, which celebrated its 800th anniversary last year, established “the foundation of the rule of law and the principle that no person, not even the king or sovereign, is above the law,” he said. Another section of the document established the court of common pleas, which was separate from the king. “Separation from the king’s court made it clear that judges were to operate independently of the king, and this led to the development of the concept of judicial independence,” Hubbard said. That concept was at the core of the American Revolution, and Alexander Hamilton listed it as a main reason for the Revolution and wrote about its importance in the Federalist Papers, he said. Developing as a necessary corollary was the independence of the legal profession. “There is a grand bargain in our justice system: Our profession is allowed to be independent and to regulate itself in return for meeting the justice requirements of the people we are sworn to serve,” Hubbard said. “To serve the justice needs of the public, we must do more because there is a troubling, persistent problem that continues to imperil the health of the justice system and our nation today and that is the justice gap. Eighty percent of the poor and approximately 50 percent of people of moderate means do not have meaningful access to our civil justice system.” Nationally, at least one party is self-represented in 75 percent of all state civil cases and 80 percent of the parties in family law cases are self-represented, he said. Large numbers of federal appeals are filed pro se, and the U.S. compares poorly with other advanced countries in accessibility and affordability of legal services, he continued. Despite that, “Paradoxically, many lawyers and law school graduates cannot find legal work,” Hubbard said. “There is a deep structural problem in our justice system. We have procedural rules and a regulatory system built on the promise there will be a lawyer for every client in every case. But that clearly is not the reality. “Cascading into this justice gap is an entire new category of legal services, internet-based legal products that are both well financed and unburdened by the regulatory restraints that limit how, where, and with whom lawyers practice,” he added. “There are now more than 1,000 technology companies delivering legal services. At least 40 have a capitalization over $5 million.” Investment in those companies now tops more than $1 billion a year, Hubbard said, and just as the internet has changed the way people shop and seek information, it is transforming the legal marketplace. “Disruption is now the norm,” he continued. “We lawyers need to lead the disruption and not be disrupted by others. And the window is closing on our ability to lead the change.. . . “As leaders in our profession, we must give lawyers the tools they need to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.” Hubbard praised The Florida Bar’s Vision 2016 commission for identifying the challenges and coming up with solutions. He particularly cited The Florida Bar Foundation’s Florida Justice Technology Center, financed with a loan from the Bar. The center, with the guidance of the Supreme Court of Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, is setting up a gateway portal and consumers can call and be connected with the appropriate legal solution, ranging from forms and legal aid to law clinics and lawyer referral services. The ABA Board of Governors has voted to create an innovation center at the ABA headquarters to help lawyers with technology matters, he said. And at its August convention, the ABA will receive the report from its Commission on the Future of Legal Services, which was created two years ago and brought together an array of lawyers, technology and business experts, legal educators, judges, and others. “It will issue a remarkable report in August, a roadmap for the future that all lawyers should study,” Hubbard said. Outgoing Bar President Ramón Abadin thanked Hubbard for his insights and underscored his warnings, especially about the lack of time for lawyers to control the coming changes. He noted that currently, the world’s most powerful computer has the processing power equivalent to the brain of a rat. At the current rapid pace of change, in two years, it will have the power of a human brain. “Technology, if I’ve learned anything, is not going to stop and wait for us to debate and deliberate,” Abadin said. “Consumers will go to where it’s affordable and convenient for them, not for us.”last_img

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