Twitter Updates for 2018-04-20

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The Race to the Bottom and How it Might Help Access to Justice

I just ran across another legal tech startup that is going to automate a common legal problem space and sell access to their web-based questionnaire for $29.95 or some such. It’s potentially a huge market because millions of people must deal with this legal situation every year. There are hundreds of possible startups like this – each centered around a single vertical that can be automated with a little javascript and a some marketing.

TurboTax was the first way back in 1987 (that’s when I first bought it) when it was a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet with a ton of macros made by a company called Chipsoft. Now the 1040 and accompanying forms were and are hard to automate, but the market is huge (100 million potential uers) every year. There is a lot of law to keep up to date and it changes every year. Intuit bought Chipsoft for $223 million back in 1993.

a2j author logoHere’s my prediction. Every single “simple” legal problem that is process definable or form-oriented will go this way, but for much much less money. My thinking when we started working on A2J Author over 12 years ago is that courts and legal aid should do this for themselves and law students could help them by taking courses that include an experiential component.  This would give law students the ability to be smart users, builders, and purchasers in the new normal of the automated process marketplace.

Even complicated legal matters can be broken down into steps – some that can be automated and some that shouldn’t. This could either make law practice more efficient or it could result in smaller, chunkier work for lawyers doing unbundled, limited license work.

This won’t put lawyers out of business either. When I started my first programming job in 1983 coding COBOL on an IBM mainframe, I read about a new code generator in ComputerWorld that was going to replace programmers. Instead, every new advance in coding has just meant that programmers had to change their development environment and upgrade their skills. This too shall happen to lawyers. It seems like it’s happening rapidly, but it’s actually going to take some time.  Law moves slowly.  Very slowly.

If this becomes a “race to the bottom”, then cutthroat competition will lower prices and maybe quality. This will make it very hard for companies to find sustainable income. There will be winners and losers and this might not be all good for the quality of legal service delivery.  Even so, the market is not very good at measuring the quality of legal service delivery.  Why is that?

Court forms are a kind of domain-specific language that courts and lawyers use to communicate with each other about legal matters. Courts have a monopoly on how the forms are formatted, but not on the guidance that is given in filling them out.

That is where lawyers add value and can differentiate themselves. Maybe automation and explanation is proof that the lawyer you are thinking of hiring actually understands what you are hiring her for.

John Mayer
Executive Director, CALI
@johnpmayer
jmayer@cali.org

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CALI Announces Katherine Alteneder, Executive Director at Self-Represented Litigation Network, as the CALIcon18 Conference Keynote Speaker

Keynote Session:  How Do Lawyers Get Paid If Access to Justice is Free?

KATHERINE ALTENEDER

Executive Director at Self-Represented Litigation Network

Keynote Session Description:

The rise of the self-represented litigant has disrupted the civil justice system. Courts no longer rely on lawyers to manage the litigants, but the due process remains so courts have had to step-up and create user-friendly systems for lay people. By providing comprehensive, 24/7 self-help services such as forms, instructions, tailored procedural guidance, and triaged case flow management; courts can create transparent and navigable systems. However, the bespoke approach contemplated in an adversarial process is lost without lawyers. Lawyers are still very much needed, however, their new role is only beginning to be understood. It is one that has paradoxically narrowed in focus yet, because of technology, expanded in delivery opportunities. Legal education has an opportunity to equip new lawyers with the legal and practical skills to be successful in today’s legal market that demands 24/7 services accessible by cellphone from anywhere in the world while engaging more autonomous clients who seek refined and targeted legal advice, strategy and big-picture analysis. This talk will explore the many opportunities that are presenting in this re-aligning market, and consider the negative and positive impacts, particularly with respect to technology, on access to justice.

Katherine Alteneder’s Bio:

With a deep background in designing and implementing access to justice initiatives for legal aid, the courts and private practice, Katherine’s philosophy throughout her career has been to build common sense, consumer oriented solutions by learning, innovating and sharing. After clerking for a trial court judge, Katherine worked at Alaska Legal Services Corporation, initially handling DV matters and later as the Aging Grant Coordinator. In 2001, Katherine joined the Alaska Court System to develop the statewide Family Law Self-Help Center, which resulted in the nation’s first virtual self-help center. Operating solely through telephone and Internet capabilities, the Center was also one of the early TIG grantees. In 2008, Katherine moved to private practice, establishing a successful unbundled practice supporting self-represented litigants in Alaska, and helped to create the first Unbundled Law Section of a state bar. An early member of Self-Represented Litigation Network, she has led the SRLN since August 2013. Katherine is particularly interested in building delivery systems for rural and vulnerable populations and creating community based legal assistance environments that prioritize judicial engagement and leadership to re-imagine services and approaches used by the private bar, legal aid, court staff and non-legal community providers so that everyone can get the legal help they need, when they need it in a format they can use. Katherine sits on the Advisory Committee for Voices for Civil Justice, serves as the Senior Advisor to the Justice for All Project, is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Technology Law and Policy, and member of the Board of Advisors of the Journal of the National Association of the Administrative Law Judiciary. Katherine, a graduate of Northwestern University and Seattle University School of Law, resides in Virginia.

About CALIcon18

The 28th Annual CALI Conference for Law School Computing® brings together leading technology professionals, faculty, librarians, and institutional leaders to discuss the transformation of legal education through technology and innovation.

CALIcon18 is June 7 & 8, 2018 at American University Washington College of Law in Washington DC. For details including registration information and list of sessions, visit the CALIcon18 website at http://2018.calicon.org/.

Thank you to our CALIcon18 Sponsors

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Twitter Updates for 2018-04-18

  • NEW CALI Lesson – South Dakota Primary and Secondary Legal Research. This lesson will familiarize you with primary… https://t.co/xBDfHsU9UR #

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Twitter Updates for 2018-04-17

  • NEW CALI Lesson – Delaware Primary Legal Research Resources. This lesson covers the state's constitution, statutory… https://t.co/yYP3WvkDyc #

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