Legal Self-Help Support & the Increased Demand for Legal Tech

Mary Juetten writing for the ABA Journal:

We appear to have created a chasm between done-for-you-by-a-lawyer and DIY solutions. The bridge or answer is mobile technology with appropriate legal support. For years, Thomson Reuters’ FindLaw survey has analyzed client behavior. The most recent figures from 2016 consumer survey respondents demonstrate the need for immediate attention from local legal experts using mobile applications.

  • 71 percent use their smartphones to find a solution to a legal problem.
  • 58 percent look for an attorney within a week of their legal incident.
  • 45 percent consider legal expertise as top selection factor.
  • 78 percent wish to hire a local attorney.

Therefore, clients are demanding mobile applications that provide direct access to a firm. In addition, consumers want education; online questionnaires to gather information rather than in-person consultations; and free legal forms for specific practice areas. Rather than fighting this trend toward creating mobile legal products and services, attorneys can use online information-gathering tools to triage and educate clients and focus on professional judgment for problem-solving.

As Juetten pointed out in a previous ABA Journal article, the wide justice gap for low-income individuals in America is exacerbated by a lack of understanding of their issues. Many don’t even realize their problem is legal in nature and could be helped with an attorney.

Technology, especially mobile apps, can step in and provide a “road map,” as Juetten calls it, to accessing legal help. It seems that a lot of legal tech companies focus on providing services to firms, which is understandable – I assume there’s more of a monetary incentive to go in that direction. But the people who really need help are not inside law firms or even law schools.

Self-represented litigants may not understand the nuance of using self-help resources like websites and apps unless we spell it out for them and make them user-friendly. This is made abundantly clear by the number of frustrated people who go to law libraries in search of answers after they’ve used public Westlaw or Lexis terminals and are somehow more confused than when they started. The tech itself, while admirable, is just the beginning.


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