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Law's Information Revolution

53 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2011 Last revised: 2 Jan 2013

Bruce H. Kobayashi

George Mason University - School of Law

Larry E. Ribstein

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased); PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: December 9, 2011


Lawyers traditionally have conveyed legal expertise in the form of advice tailored to the needs of individual clients. This business model is reinforced by licensing and ethical rules designed to ensure lawyers' competence and loyalty to clients' interests. The traditional professional model is being challenged by an alternative model based on the sale of legal information in impersonal product and capital markets. In this new world, legal information engineers would to some extent replace legal practitioners.

This article provides a theoretical intellectual property framework for the regulatory decisions that must be made as the two models collide. We show that traditional professional regulation inhibits full development of the new business model by limiting intellectual property protection for legal information. This regulation assumes that consumers get legal information in one-to-one relationships with lawyers where they have little ability to evaluate the advice they are receiving. However, a fully developed legal information market could substitute for some of the protection consumers now receive from licensing and ethical rules without the current model's costs of restricting the supply and raising the costs of legal services. We apply our analysis to some actual and potential markets in legal information.

JEL Classification: K11, K41, K49

Suggested Citation

Kobayashi, Bruce H. and Ribstein, Larry E., Law's Information Revolution (December 9, 2011). Arizona Law Review, Vol. 53, p. 1169, 2011; Illinois Program in Law, Behavior and Social Science Paper No. LBSS11-03. Available at SSRN:

Bruce Kobayashi

George Mason University - School of Law ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
703-993-8034 (Phone)
703-993-8088 (Fax)


Larry Ribstein (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased)

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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