Incomplete Innovation and the Premature Disruption of Legal Services

96 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2015 Last revised: 6 Feb 2022

Date Written: September 12, 2015


In this Article, I argue that disruption of legal services will likely happen before the creative, bespoke services that are characteristic of today’s established firms can be innovated. As a result of this "Incomplete Innovation," the supply of bespoke services could drop. Since those services play a role in the development of our laws, their scarcity could have profound consequences. Novel legal solutions could arise to fill the void, such as technological tools that make legal services cheaper or changes to law or legal interpretation that make legal tasks friendlier to machine processing. These "innovations" could give rise to an environment in which rules are favored over standards and syntactical or semantic interpretations are favored over pragmatic interpretations. While Incomplete Innovation could bring much needed access to justice for millions, it could also increase government control or hamper progressive legal efforts. We must take stock of these potential consequences before deciding whether to embrace disruption or to resist it until innovation has matured.

Keywords: Disruptive Innovation, Legal Services, Legal Ethics, Rules Versus Standards, Natural Language Procession, Legal Technology, Hybrid Firms, Theories of Adjudication, Legal Interpretation, Progressivism, Access to Justice, Value of Legal Services, Indeterminacy

Suggested Citation

Sheppard, Brian, Incomplete Innovation and the Premature Disruption of Legal Services (September 12, 2015). Michigan State Law Review, Forthcoming, HLS Center on the Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2015-11, Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

Brian Sheppard (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States

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