At the 2015 Clio Cloud Conference,1 I’ve talked to or heard about a surprising number of lawyers who are creating software to leverage their legal knowledge for the benefit of clients who might not be able to afford it.
- A California litigator is building a referral platform to make it easier for him (and for other lawyers) to refer clients and track those referrals.
- An Arizona family lawyer built a DIY portal for clients who couldn’t afford full-service representation.
- A BigLaw lawyer built an FCPA compliance portal to offer his expertise to clients on matters that aren’t worth hiring him to do.
- Many lawyers are building apps (of wildly varying quality) to help solve problems that might lead to legal solutions.
- A New York real-estate lawyer is working on a system for delivering closings more effectively and efficiently.
- A Washington Lawyer built a website to help people draft their own simple wills.
- A Toronto lawyer built an app for finding a lawyer to handle simple appearances when you can’t make it to court.
- And lots of lawyers are starting to use document assembly to help them save time (and their clients’ money).
None of these lawyers are software developers themselves, as far as I know. What they are doing is hiring or partnering with developers in order to create solutions. You could call them legal tech startups, but they don’t really resemble the venture-backed Silicon Valley long-shots who come and go like clockwork. These are real lawyers’ attempts to solve real problems for themselves and their clients.
We normally think of legal work as solving clients’ legal problems in traditional ways: face-to-face meetings, creating documents, negotiating deals, litigating, etc. These lawyers are trying out new tools and different ways of solving clients’ legal problems (or their own law-practice problems), like developing software that can do it instead of pulling up another blank Word document. They may be trying to reach (and profit from) new clients, or expand the services they can offer to existing clients, or just make things easier on themselves.
In general I think it is too early to tell whether these particular experiments are going to catch on and have lasting success. But it’s not to early to acknowledge that lawyers have new tools available to them, and that we need to expand our concept of practicing law to include those tools.
Featured image: “Computer geek with keyboard and mouse, isolated on white background” from Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: Clio wanted me to come to its conference so badly they flew me to Chicago and gave me margaritas and tacos. A lot of margaritas. ↩