Law's Information Revolution
Bruce H. Kobayashi
George Mason University - School of Law
Larry E. Ribstein (Deceased)
University of Illinois College of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center
December 9, 2011
Arizona Law Review, Vol. 53, p. 1169, 2011
Illinois Program in Law, Behavior and Social Science Paper No. LBSS11-03
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 53
JEL Classification: K11, K41, K49
Date posted: January 12, 2011 ; Last revised: January 2, 2013