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The “Uber for Legal Services” and Faster Divorces: How Legal Tech Is Changing the Game

Written by Ilhana Redzovic, a student a University of Michigan. This post is the first in our Student Perspectives series, where we feature articles written by current undergrads. If you’re interested in contributing, please reach out.

Developments and changes within the tech industry have drastically altered the market for legal services. From apps to startups, many platforms have emerged to address the needs of attorneys, clients, and individuals looking to take a DIY approach to legal processes.

Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession offers key insight regarding current trends in its 2016 Report of the State of the Legal Market. According to the Report, the market has been evolving substantially since 2008. Market changes are specifically reflected in the increased demand for efficient and transparent services. In the quest to improve efficiency and reduce costs, clients are now prepared to disaggregate matters, retain work in-house, and utilize non-traditional service providers.

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Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor data (“Peer Monitor data”) are based on reported results from 143 law firms, including 48 Am Law 100 firms, 42 Am Law 2nd 100 firms, and 53 additional midsize firms. For present purposes, “demand for law firm services” is viewed as equivalent to total billable hours recorded by firms during a specified period.

Due to the shift in the market, law firms and attorneys have altered their company structures by integrating tech. This article identifies a number of platforms that recognize issues in attorney-client relationships and aim to promote affordability.

Platforms like these deliver ROI to law firms and help legal professionals work better and faster.

Everlaw — Everlaw addresses the inefficiencies of eDiscovery by providing a software platform and cloud service to assist with document organization and analysis compilation. The firm recently raised $8.1 million from Andreessen Horowitz.

Casetext — Casetext matches published cases with insights from leading attorneys, law firms and academics. These annotations have been compiled and are available for free on the web platform. Since October of 2013, Casetext has raised over $8.8 million in funding from investors including SV Angel, Crosslink Capital and A-Grade Investments.

MyCase — MyCase provides legal practice management software for boutique law firms. The interface is unique because it promotes expedited services and aids in efficient case management. These services range in cost from $39 a month for attorneys to $29 a month for paralegals.

Platforms like these deliver ROI to consumers and streamline access to traditional legal services through a digital channel that was previously offline.

Willing — Willing is “not a law firm” or a “substitute for attorney’s advice;” however, the platform simplifies and expedites the process of crafting a will. After answering a series of questions, users can print and sign a free document compliant with legal statues across the nation.

WeVorce — WeVorce simplifies the divorce process and assures affordability. The company seeks to protect spouses, children, and assets by dividing the divorce process into five patented steps. In terms of pricing, the app has cut the cost of divorce by one-third the national average, with services beginning at $750. As of January of 2016, WeVorce “has processed over $40 million in assets through its platform” and is “planning to expand its services through a series of partnerships, including one with the US military.” WeVorce previously participated in Y Combinator.

Citizenshipworks — Citizenshipworks provides online citizenship applications and connects immigrants with local immigration experts for legal counseling. Developed by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net, the free app has services in both English and Spanish, and is looking to expand by servicing additional languages. Citizenshipworks won the 16th Annual Webby Awards Best Law Site of the Year for 2012.

These platforms serve both consumers and legal professionals by streamlining the process of finding and accessing legal services through an online marketplace.

Quicklegal Practice Management Inc.Quicklegal provides on-demand legal advice to clients via video chat and instant messaging. For attorneys, this app provides lucrative compensation and the opportunity to find new clientele. For clients, this app is easy to use and rapidly connects one to necessary services. This platform, described as the “Uber of Legal Services,” was awarded the Techweek California App of the Year for 2014 and will be featured on Shark Tank in the coming months.

UpCounsel — UpCounsel is a platform that matches business owners and executives with attorneys. Lawyers featured on UpCounsel go through an extensive and highly competitive screening process that traditionally accepts only 5% of applicants. In the summer of 2015, UpCounsel raised $10 million in a funding round led by Menlo Ventures.

Priori Legal — Founded by Yale Law School graduate Basha Rubin, Priori Legal serves to unite prospective clients with attorneys. Clients range from independent contractors to Fortune 500 companies. This platform model provides complimentary half-hour consultations and includes FlexCounsel, a feature that allows clients to assemble full-service legal teams starting at $130/hour.

Mr. David B. Guenther is an experienced practitioner and clinical law professor at the University of Michigan Law School where he serves as the Director of the International Transactions Clinic. He asserts that structural changes within the legal market are consequences of client sensitivity to legal service pricing. Guenther notes that legal tech services can be quick and cost-effective; however, he recognizes that there are significant risks to utilizing this approach to law.

According to Guenther, legal tech trends have increased competition while simultaneously addressing numerous inefficiencies. It is critical to note that these developments are in their infant stages. Many “cookie cutter transactions” utilize templates and do not account for certain variables or exceptions. As such, nuanced transactions completed using legal tech have the potential to incur large costs when incorrectly performed. Guenther highlights that complicated legal procedures “…Require lawyers with experience, judgment and discretion. Just as you wouldn’t want to self-doctor, you definitely wouldn’t want to self-lawyer.” While these legal tech services are continuing to develop, it is critical for clients to be cognizant of associated risks.

Written by Ilhana Redzovic (email) and edited by Kaesha Freyaldenhoven (email). If you’re interested in legal technology, contact David Guenther here.

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A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning.

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