Access to Justice: What You Should Know (PART 2)!

So as a follow up to my recent blog entitled “Access to Justice: What You Should Know”, I thought I’d follow up with another quick blog about some more thoughts that Richard Susskind wrote about in his book, “The End of Lawyers”.

So we started off with the idea that access to justice is a three-fold approach on a massive scale: improving dispute resolution, preventative law, and the benefits of knowing the law. Now, I’ll briefly review some of the things that Richard talked about in how such improvement will actually materialize.

Citizens must become empowered
Here, citizens can become more empowered by become more aware of the law and through online self-help facilities. The latter already exist. Lawyers and law firms are putting their knowledge on the web in the hopes of building their brand while having better informed clients. Cyber courts are popping up to help parties resolve their disputes. And do-it-yourself customizable legal forms + video guides (a la Dynamic Legal Forms) allow parties who cannot afford a lawyer to customize their own lawyer-prepared legal forms in various everyday situations.

Streamlined Law Firms
Here, Richard talks about how everyday, routine tasks that don’t need to be done by a lawyer shouldn’t be: paralegals and law clerks can fill that void. Outsourcing to India or elsewhere also comes into play. The idea is to systematize and package (or commoditize) some aspects of how legal services are performed. This will have a two-fold impact: reduce costs on the end-user and speed up the delivery of legal services.

A Healthy Third Sector
Charities, not-for-profit organizations, community bodies, social clubs, etc. form part of the third sector (the other sectors being the public and private sector). Public and private funding is needed to support the third sector. Also, technology can be used by the third sector to improve access to justice for those who use their services.

Entrepreneurial Alternative Providers
Lawyers are traditionally conservative folk. We don’t like to advertise. We don’t like to take risks. We are not very entrepreneurial. But there are those among us (e.g. Garry Wise, Robert Berman, Rob Hyndman, Gavin Birer, Stephen Taran, Rubsun Ho, Joe Milstone, Michael Dewey, Lloyd Duhaime, Peter Cusimano, etc.) who ARE lawyers and who ARE entrepreneurial. The problem in coming out with new legal technologies is that, if lawyers aren’t doing it and are not involved in it, it becomes very difficult for others to get involved. There are lots of risks (lawsuits, prohibitions, etc.) for non-lawyers to play lawyer. Also, getting a lawyer to sit down with you to build these technologies will cost thousands (if not hundreds of thousands or more) in their time. I’m sure, as time goes on, more and more legal professionals will reach out and create something new and disruptive for the masses to benefit from. Ultimately, non-professionals may start to appear with new and innovative solutions (but there is a long way to go here).

Accessible Legal Information Systems
Here, Richard Susskind talks about how the law should be made easily accessible and digestible through no-cost to users. These legal information systems are available to lawyers at significant costs (and may be very difficult for the untrained person to understand), but not so much to everyday folk.

Government Policies
Finally, Richard Susskind talks about how there must be an enlightened set of government policies relating to the available of public sector information. The government must make information (e.g. about courts, processes, forms, tribunals, etc.) more publicly available. At the moment, this is being done through publishing laws, reported cases, and guidelines.

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