In this series, we have looked at the problems of the law and legal costs.
- A complex legal system which ordinary people cannot use without help and
- the high, in many cases prohibitively high, cost of legal help.
In the last post, I considered the ‘solution’ of legal aid. However, this is essentially a 20th-century solution. We are now in the 21st century. What new solutions do we have?
Although before we look at the solutions, let’s take a look at what people need.
What legal services do people need?
I would suggest it all boils down to the following:
- Paperwork (or ‘documentation’ as it need not be paper) – for example, a tenancy agreement or contract of employment
- Information – what is the law on any one situation? Plus general guidance.
- Procedural guidance – for example on how to evict a tenant
- One to one advice on a specific solution.
Of these four, only the last one really needs the active involvement of a qualified lawyer. The others can be dealt with by clients using some sort of automated system.
It’s nice if you can have a top level lawyer prepare your tenancy agreement for you but it’s not really necessary. It’s a considerably better use of their time to develop a really good document which will be suitable for most situations. Then the valuable 1:1 service can be focused on advice on unusual situations.
That’s essentially what I do with my Landlord Law service.
Rolls Royce and Skokas
One of the problems with most law firms is that they are geared up to provide a bespoke ‘face to face’ advisory service (charging on a time costing basis), when in fact in most situations an online service where you look things up (for a fixed fee) would do the job.
I know very little about cars, but so long as it is in working order, a cheap Skoda will get you from A to B just as well, albeit in less comfort, than a posh rolls. Most people of average intelligence are quite capable of working out how to do something themselves if they are given proper information and instructions.
So let’s have a look at our list again.
Modern life is riddled with paperwork – but in most cases, you don’t have to create it from scratch, you just need to fill it in. So what you need is
- Help in finding the right document for your situation,
- Guidance on completing it, and maybe
- A bit of advice if your situation is out of the ordinary
Documentation is one service that has been available for many years over the internet. Legal publishers such as Oyez and Lawpack and my own Landlord Law have long provided standard forms.
Sometimes (as with Landlord Law) they provide an advice service too.
With the coming of the internet, there has been an explosion of online information. We all have it coming out of our ears. The main problem now is whether it is good information – or not.
This is where lawyers can help as their information can generally be relied upon.
My Landlord Law service, for example, provides online information and guidance as part of my membership site – along with the many free articles on this Landlord Law blog.
For standard situations, standard online information from a reliable source is usually all that’s needed.
A large percentage of lawyers work is the (largely repetitive) carrying out of procedures for clients.
- Dealing with a conveyance of property
- Bringing a standard claim such as a claim for possession of property
- Obtaining a divorce
- Obtaining a grant of probate
However, it is now no longer always necessary to instruct an expensive solicitor for these things. Online services are developing where you can get the work done via an automated or semi-automatic system or get detailed guidance to help you do it yourself.
For example, my Landlord Law site has all the information and guidance a landlord needs to bring a standard repossession claim themselves.
4 One to one advice
Most traditional solicitors firms tend to offer just the one to one advice solution. As solicitors charge for their time, this can be a disproportionately expensive solution.
The best solution, for the consumer, is to have cheaper automated solutions for standard legal work leaving the ‘Rolls Royce’ one to one advice services for those difficult unusual cases. Or for the clients who can afford and are prepared to pay for them (an increasingly shrinking group).
But even the one to one advice service may, in the long term, be on its way out.
The coming of the Robots
Robots / computers can do amazing things. For example, beat champion players in complex games such as Go.
There was also an experiment carried out at University College London where a computer, having been fed copious documentation relating to 584 cases decided by the European court of human rights, reached the same conclusion as the court in 79% of the cases.
This sort of technology is still in its infancy but the word on the street is that it will take over all the mundane legal services and maybe some of the higher level advice work currently done by lawyers.
Inevitably this will reduce the costs. Maybe in some cases to zero.
Let’s sum it all up next time.