The Future of Law: What are “legal services”?
After discussing who will provide legal services, a relevant question here is “What is the practice of law?” Coming up with a definition of the practice of law has proven to be very difficult. Many have tried, and many have failed, including an American Bar Association Commission. For the purposes of this article we won’t attempt to come up with the definitive definition of the practice of law. Let’s just say that the practice of law includes giving legal advice. We also won’t attempt to define what “the giving of legal advice” is other than to say it is what lawyers have traditionally done.
The key point to note is that the practice of law or the giving of legal advice is important as either triggers inclusion in the legal services regulatory regime. But, what about the services offered by some of the newer forms of legal service providers? Is a legal forms site that helps you complete a document giving you legal advice? How about an answer to a query you posted on a legal Q&A site? Or when a problem with your online purchase is resolved with an online dispute resolution process? Is a software program that creates a document tailored to your facts giving you legal advice? In many cases these websites and online tools are doing work that is the same or very similar to what lawyers do. However, if you take a look at the terms of service on online legal services sites you will find they all explicitly say they are not practising law or providing legal advice. It almost seems as if incremental unauthorized practice of law (known as UPL) is chipping away at the foundations of the legal profession. This leads to the tomorrow’s question: Should legal service providers be regulated?
So what will the law firm of the future look like? There are a number of possibilities, some that will be similar to or evolve from existing types of firms, others that will be entirely new. Click the thumbnail below to see types of firms we will probably see 10 to 15 years from now:
This article is from the September 2013 issue of LAWPRO Magazine, which can be read in full here.