We held our second Denver event on the evening of October 26th, hosted by Lawgical. The evening's focus was a discussion on increasing access to justice through the use of technology in law. The evening kicked off with a Darwin Talk entitled "Time is the New Green" given by Adam Camras of Lawgical and Legal Talk Network. Every small inefficiency in your life can add up to time wasted, both professionally and personally. That goes for law, where you can still find people running their firms using what are by modern standards crude tools. The firms that are succeeding are the ones who are using the latest in technological innovations and software to be efficient and save those precious minutes and hours that add up over the course of time.
The evening's panel tackled bringing justice to the masses with tech. Technology provides a tremendous opportunity to connect real clients with real lawyers to meet their legal needs and provide them real legal services. The internet and mobile technology allows lawyers to meet clients where they are and to provide services through their phones via apps or through their website, enabling them to access their services when they need them without having to go into an office or make an appointment. Beyond being easy, affordable, and convenient, a technology-based solution can help clients suss out what their particular legal needs might be if they don't know where to begin with an attorney.
While technology does offer a tremendous opportunity to provide more people with the legal services they need , there are still obstacles in the way of making access to justice a reality for all. Culturally, it will take time to get lawyers to adjust their thinking on technology. As long as lawyers fear technology taking their jobs or cutting into their earnings, there will be resistance to implementing more technology into firms. And the legal tech solutions need to work and address the needs of the clients, with care that there won't be any oversights or mistakes that could be damaging; while things like traffic tickets can be very straightforward, areas like family law can be complex, with a unknown set of variables entering into any particular case. Most importantly, clients need to want to use them. Limited licence legal technicians seem to offer a part to providing greater access to justice for more people, but they are not a panacea for the broader issues within the legal market, which are the prohibitive costs of attorneys and legal fees.
Pre-paid legal plans and group legal services are another area that offers access to legal services at rates that are more affordable than can be found by simply looking for a lawyer online, but not enough people seem willing to take advantage of these plans. The hesitance to pay a monthly fee may arise from the fact that many people don't know they have a legal issue, and when they do, prefer a single transaction even if it might be more costly. As with insurance, while some see the benefits of having that assurance of legal services when the need arises, others see the monthly cost that goes towards something they might think they'll never use or need.
Ultimately, the practice of law comes down to a relationship business. Lawyers need to build and maintain a positive relationship with their clients, and technology can help them do that. By making their services readily available with apps and chatbots and other tech, clients can know that they will be agle to get help when they need it. And the efficiency of tools like document management, document automation, ebilling, and a host of others enable attorneys to work more efficiently and charge clients less, which certainly improves how clients see their attorneys. By reducing their workload, attorneys are able to devote their attention where needed, and let automation and self-service take the place of more routine legal matters. While there is still a long road to go to make legal services more affordable, technology will undoubtedly provide the tools needed to eventually make it a reality.
To close out the evening, Sarah Kieny of Riggs Abney shared her experience with "Law Nights: Access to Justice." Law Nights is a grassroots program aimed at helping families in schools and transitional housing talk to attorneys about their legal needs and showing those residents how they can use technology to help address those needs as well. By acting locally, they are able to help bridge the access to justice gap in a small way, beginning in the Denver community.