Law Society Policy For Access to Justice Failure
103 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2019 Last revised: 28 Sep 2020
Date Written: April 6, 2020
Law societies appear to be powerless to serve the public interest by defending lawyers’ markets against three major threats:
(1) the access to justice problem (the A2J problem of unaffordable legal services for the majority of society that is middle- and lower-income people), which has left the majority of law firms short of clients;
(2) the commercial producers of legal services such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, which now have millions of customers, who are now here in Canada beginning the same process of invading lawyers’ markets, along with the many small “apps” startups that provide automated legal services; and,
(3) machine (artificial) intelligence that can remove the need for lawyers in the production of many legal services, bringing about a de facto deregulation of legal services markets, as well as enhance that human intelligence that is sufficiently specialized to be enhanced.
Law society actions and statements make very uncertain what they will do in regard to such threats — threats that could eventually eliminate many lawyers’ law practices, and could greatly reduce the membership of law societies, and therefore their size, as has happened in many industries. Canada’s law societies have not yet recognized them as major threats to their ability to serve the public interest. If left unchallenged and unchecked, they will do away with (supersede) more than half of each law society’s membership, i.e., the general practitioner and the small, unspecialized law firm. What law society “Access to Justice Committees” are doing should be done, but it is very small in comparison with what should be done. It merely, in a minor way, tries to help the population learn to live with the problem, but not to solve the problem. This article deals with what should be done. It concludes with a detailed list of described topics of a law society policy statement that lawyer-members should demand of their law society.
The topics are:
1. Maintaining the use of the legal profession’s services by middle- and lower-income people;
2. Sponsoring the creation of support services and standardizing and packaging parts of lawyers’ work
3. Supporting the creation of a national civil service for all of Canada’s law societies
4. Coping with the challenges presented by the commercial producers of legal services and by the disruption to be caused by machine intelligence;
5. The government-law society split in responsibility in dealing with the victims of the access to justice problem (the A2J problem);
6. The creation of various types of independently-operating paralegal services workers;
7. Statistics as to the decreasing numbers of lawyers in private practice as a law society responsibility;
8. The obsolescence of the “bencher concept” of law society management by practicing lawyers;
9. Alternative business structures (ABSs) that allow law firms to become investment properties;
10. The members of law societies fall into two groups having conflicting interests on major issues;
11. The purpose of a demand for a law society policy statement concerning these issues;
12. The consequences of law society neglect of these topics, being topics that require law society action and reformation;
13. The Law Society of Ontario’s (LSO’s) $1.2 million public relations campaign — purpose and relevance please.
There now exists considerable authoritative published literature warning that the general practitioner and small unspecialized law firm are under threat of becoming just another industry superseded by technology. Therefore, their lawyers should demand a policy statement of commitment from their law societies dealing with the above topics, so that they can begin now to plan for the coming disruption to their law practices and lives.
“Cottage industry” methods mean the manufacturer of the finished product uses no external support services to create any parts of that finished product. Without the use of external “parts suppliers,” it is not possible to create the economies-of-scale that affordability of one’s product for all income levels of society requires. A true support service is highly specialized in regard to every factor of production, and produces every one of its “parts” at very high volumes. It makes relatively few kinds of such parts and therefore has few factors and costs of production. That enables the huge revenue earned from high production volumes to be applied to those few factors of production. Thus, the greater the volume produced, the greater the degree of specialization for every such factor that can be afforded, and the spreading of costs such that each unit produced pays for a diminishing share of total costs as production volumes increase. “Nothing is as effective at lowering costs as scaling-up the volume of production.” The benefit of the resulting economies-of-scale are passed on to the main manufacturer by way of the lower prices paid for those parts than the main manufacturer could obtain by making all parts itself. Also, production should avoid treating every product or service as requiring “tailor made” work to suit each particular client. Parts of lawyers’ work can be done by standardized, systematized, and packaged procedures so as to lower costs.
Keywords: access to justice, machine intelligence, artificial intelligence, support services, law society regulation, lawyer-client relationship, standardized legal services, A2J
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