92 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2016 Last revised: 1 Oct 2016
Date Written: March 25, 2016
While many industries are facing challenges from new companies employing so-called “sharing economy” models of service delivery, those companies are bringing benefits to consumers while also operating at times in a legal vacuum, where the regulatory infrastructure seems incapable of responding adequately to the need for appropriate oversight that both encourages innovation but builds consumer trust and provides consumer protection. The legal profession, however, is an industry that has deployed features of sharing economy models for nearly the last two centuries, and, as a result, is an industry that has developed a sophisticated infrastructure for regulating actors within the industry deploying approaches that share sharing economy characteristics, although they have not leveraged new technologies the way sharing economy providers have done to date. Advances in the delivery of legal services are making a true sharing economy approach closer to reality, however. Indeed, a technology-enabled, sharing economy approach to the delivery of legal services, if instituted, could bring benefits to consumers seeking such services, while offering the consumer protections that regulation of the legal profession already has in place, sidestepping some of the consumer protection concerns the sharing economy raises. What this Article explores is whether a true sharing economy approach to the delivery of legal services — “Uber for Lawyers” — is a viable model for the legal profession. It attempts to address the ways in which new, technology-enabled organizations are changing the way in which legal services are being delivered in the United States, with a particular focus on LegalZoom, as well as a new model for the delivery of legal services that offers what I call “Just in Time/Just Enough Services.” Such an approach would (1) be situated within a sophisticated regulatory infrastructure that would encourage innovation while preserving consumer protection and (2) increase access to and affordability of legal services. It would open up new opportunities for lawyers to exercise their skills and practice their craft. Such an approach might therefore serve the ends of tapping into the latent market for legal services, increasing access to justice, and improving both lawyer job satisfaction as well as employment prospects.
Keywords: sharing economy, legal profession, access to justice
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Brescia, Raymond H., Uber for Lawyers: The Transformative Potential of a Sharing Economy Approach to the Delivery of Legal Services (March 25, 2016). 64 Buffalo Law Review 745 (2016) ; Albany Law School Working Papers Series No. 16 for 2015-2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2754470