Technology—lowering costs and increasing access to legal care

For many ordinary people, the perception has long been that using a lawyer is expensive. Often, there is also the mystique about exactly how much a lawyer will charge. As a result, for legal matters like traffic tickets, divorces, wills, debt collection and more, people often elect to handle them on their own, and not seek professional legal expertise.

Changes are underway in the legal arena, however, and technology is making it easier and less costly for the common person to gain access to professional legal representation. Here are some examples of technology that are altering the legal landscape.

Non-lawyer legal services

Companies like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom provide consumers with the ability to produce contracts, wills, business formation documents, bankruptcy filings, etc., without the assistance of a lawyer. These services state that they do not provide legal representation, are not law firms and are not a substitute for an attorney or law firm.

Attorney Blair Janis, in an article for the American Bar Association, notes these and similar services have identified areas where technology can replace lawyers, with a significant limitation. “At the end of the day, none of these services can guarantee that the deliverables they are providing can and will accomplish the purpose for which the consumer obtained that deliverable,” Janis writes.

In other words, if you use a machine for your legal work and something gets messed up, you might not have the same avenues of recourse as if you’d hired an attorney.

Traffic ticket smartphone app

Smartphones have become important devices in most people’s lives, so it makes sense to take advantage of available legal apps. Bellingham attorney Ziad Youssef offers an app that allows drivers to use their smartphone to obtain legal representation. With the mytrafficman app, users who have a ticket can hire an attorney to represent them for traffic violations.

In the example used in a YouTube demo, the cost for an attorney for a traffic incident was $199. The transactions are handled through Amazon and payment is made through an Amazon account.

If you’re wondering why someone would hire a lawyer for a traffic ticket, consider that violations like speeding, negligent driving, failing to signal, etc., can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines and increased insurance rates.

“For $199 you’re getting somebody that will respond to your ticket so you don’t have to take a day off work to go to court. They’ll analyze the facts and legal issues for you in order to make sure they get you the best possible outcome,” Youssef explains. “Ethically, we cannot guarantee a dismissal, but we can guarantee you’re going to get the best work on that case with regard to analyzing the legal issues. You will get a technically proficient attorney that has a deep pool of resources to get you the best possible outcome.”

Artificial intelligence

In the legal realm, artificial intelligence allows automated systems to handle tasks traditionally done by lawyers or legal assistants. This includes routine things like filling out intake forms, evidence management, legal research and discovery, to more complex, high-value tasks like online dispute resolution and argumentation models.

In a roundtable discussion for the American Bar Association, attorney Sophia Lingos indicated it is inevitable that artificial intelligence will have a profound effect on the future of law.

“It is wise to embrace it now so that it can be a tool as opposed to an impediment,” Lingos said. She also explained that one positive benefit will likely be increased access to justice for the middle class.

It’s a new age for many of those people who never would have hired an attorney in the past. With technological advances making professional legal representation cheaper and more accessible than ever before, you might want to give it a try next time you see those flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror.

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