The legal industry is known for being outdated, old-school, antiquated, and slow to change. We agree and think the industry needs to catch up to society and technology. Here are 5 ways in which the legal industry lives up to its reputation and our proposed solution.
Problem #1: Overcrowded courtrooms
If you have ever been a litigator, a client, or a clerk and have had to file something in court, you’ll probably notice a long line of people waiting in line to file documents, fill out documents, find the correct documents, and waiting for their turn to be heard. Even status calls are a waiting game. Something that could take 5 minutes can last 1.5 hours and the client bears the burden of that cost.
Solution: We propose the online courtroom. Not another ADR solutions (for those, go to problem #2), but actual online court. Even if it is only status calls that are conducted using existing technology like Skype or GoToMeeting, there would be fewer crowded courtrooms and excessive waiting times. This in turn reduces administrative costs, costs to the clients, wasted time for lawyers, and more efficient law firms, cases, and justice system overall. Ultimately, everything short of a trial can be and should be done online.
Problem #2: Speedy trials are not a thing and the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options are just as bad.
Solution: There should be more ADR solutions that are easy to use, readily available on court web sites, and easy to find and understand for non-lawyers. The solutions should be affordable and available. If you have a dispute of $500, it should not cost you $165 to file a claim to resolve that dispute. Some companies have attempted to avoid the courtroom all together to speed up the resolutions to their disputes (since they have so many) and have included arbitration clauses in their contracts. While this may seem like a positive attempt at avoiding long litigation, the existing ADR solutions are not what they appear to be.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a report of pre-dispute arbitration clauses and concluded the following:
- Nearly all arbitration clauses surveyed contained a provision barring class actions.
- Consumers were generally unaware (i) of the arbitration clauses in their financial services contracts; and (ii) that some contracts permitted opt-outs from the arbitration clause.
- Claims brought in arbitration averaged $16,000. Very few cases were brought for $1,000 or less.
- Consumers received relief totaling approximately $400,000 in the approximately 1,000 arbitration cases filed in 2010 and 2011. By contrast, 32 million consumers were eligible for relief through class action settlements in each of those years, with average cash payouts to consumers totaling an average $220 million per year. Arbitration clauses did not result in lower prices for consumers.
What this says is that even though arbitration is an alternative, it is not a good one. If there is an alternative to lengthy litigation, it should be a benefit not a detriment to the people who use it. After all, you’re saving courts money, saving time, avoiding lengthy disputes, and you should be rewarded accordingly.
Problem #3: Outdated and legalease terms
Solution: Contracts and legal documents should be drafted so that a non-lawyer can use them and understand them. Reviewing lengthy cases should not be necessary to determine the interpretation of the meaning of a term. Contracts, policies, and terms and conditions are long enough. Writing these documents with a bunch of “whereas,” “therein” and “hereinafter referred to as…” is enough to deter someone from drafting a contract at all.
Here’s an example of a simplified contract:
|Contract Before||Contract After|
|SOURCING AGREEMENTTHIS SOURCING AGREEMENT (“Agreement”) is made and entered into as of this January 25, 2015 (“Effective Date”), by and between COMPANY 1 LLC, a limited liability company with its principal place of business at ADDRESS 1 (“Consultant”), and COMPANY 2 LLC, a limited liability company organized under the laws of the State of Delaware, USA, with its principal place of business located at ADDRESS 2 (“COMPANY 2”), collectively referred to as the “Parties” and individually as the “Party.”RECITALSWHEREAS, Consultant is a company possessing particular expertise in the design and development and quality assurance management (collectively “Skills”).WHEREAS, Company 2 desires to utilize Consultant’s Skills and Services (as defined herein) under the terms and conditions of this Agreement;WHEREAS, Consultant is desirous of providing Skills and Services to Company 2 under the terms and conditions of this Agreement.NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual promises and conditions contained herein, the Parties agree as follows:||SOURCING AGREEMENTParty 1: “Consultant”Company 1Address 1Party 2: “Company”Company 2Address 2Recitals: Company and Consultant agree that Consultant will provide design and development and quality assurance management services for Company for Compensation.
Compensation: $200 per hour
Doesn’t that look better?
Problem #4: Law School – 3 years of studying case analysis that you’ll never use for an excessively high price
Solution: While some areas of law do cross over, those areas that touch on each other can be covered in a one year specialized program. Yes, the LSAT (which some schools are doing away with), the three years of school, the cost, and the Bar examination are all barriers to entry. However, having specialized programs that are one year long would create better lawyers who specialize in a particular area, would make them experts in that area, and would avoid the need to know areas of law that you will never use. This method would serve the public better, create a clear picture of who the experts are rather than going to a generalist and hoping he can find his way around the courtroom, and would create a better system overall with quicker and better solutions.
We propose that law schools make the programs more difficult or raise the requirements, not the costs and create certificate programs and one year post graduate degrees that cost a lot less and don’t cost more than a 30 year mortgage with a piece of paper to show for it.
Problem #5: Government web sites – outdated, difficult to use
Solution: Everyone loves a good makeover story. There are a few pioneers who are attempting to makeover the legal industry. One person is Margaret Hagan. She has led workshops in attempting to redesign government web sites to make them more accessible and user friendly. Counties across the country are getting the hint, and recently Cook County, IL got the hint when they redesigned their site. See the before and after here:
We should continue to make such improvements and make these sites, which are built for the home buyer, the tax payer, etc., more accessible, clearer, and easier to understand.
More to come… stay tuned.
Meanwhile follows us at: @maryredzic and @Greenberg_Law