California Bar Task Force: A Pot and Kettle Exercise

California’s state bar has convened a task force for the purposes of crafting proposals for overhauling the legal system in order to give non-attorney players more freedom to own legal services companies and provide direct-to-consumer services. Some of the task forces members have either current or past ties to the legal tech industry.

As you might expect, legal tech involvement in the task force has some California attorneys crying foul. The attorneys claim that legal tech executives bring a conflict of interest to the task force’s mission. Let us assume for just one minute that such claims are true. Complaining attorneys become a classic illustration of a pot calling the kettle black.

What the Legal Tech Industry Wants

Imagine all the task force members sitting around a conference table trying to hash out what they believe are the best regulatory changes moving forward. Every man and woman sitting at that table has an agenda. Each one wants something that will benefit someone somehow. It is human nature.

Representatives of the legal tech industry want regulatory changes that create broader markets. They want access to the direct-to-consumer market completely unfettered by regulatory control. They want to be able to offer services to consumers through companies that are owned and operated by people who are not licensed attorneys.

Their desires are completely reasonable. Legal tech sees huge potential in direct-to-consumer services and their companion, on-demand law. They see a vast and untapped market populated by consumers who need legal services but cannot afford attorneys. Of course they would choose to use their influence to seek regulatory changes that favor their industry. No surprise there.

What the Legal Industry Wants

Sitting around that same conference table are representatives of the state bar. Interestingly enough, the state bar’s primary mission is to represent attorneys that practice in California. They do what they do in the best interests of those attorneys who call themselves members of the association.

So what do they want? They want to keep the direct-to-consumer and on-demand markets as limited as possible. They want regulations that prevent non-lawyer business owners from offering services that attorneys currently have a tight grip on. They do not want to see any regulations that could potentially broaden the appeal of any services offered by non-attorneys.

Their desires are equally reasonable. The state bar has a responsibility to protect the interests of its attorneys. Of course they would seek to limit regulatory freedom. Of course they would not want competition from companies and service providers that compete directly with attorneys.

There is Room for Both

It should be evident that attorneys complaining about legal tech representation on California’s state bar task force are pots calling the kettle black. Rather than complaining, a better approach would be to embrace the reality that there is room for both attorneys and non-attorney service providers to serve consumers.

The people behind the NuLaw legal case management application explain that technology can bring the two sides together. The same technology that makes NuLaw one of the best case management apps on the market is being leveraged by non-attorney service providers to give consumers access to a range of affordable legal services.

Technologies like artificial intelligence, deep learning, and blockchain are streamlining the practice of law at nearly every step. Attorneys are more productive and efficient in the office and while working remotely. Consumers who rely on direct-to-consumer services can access what they need without spending a small fortune on attorney fees. Surely there is room to improve regulations in order to accommodate everyone’s best interests.…