The idea of eLawyering can be traced to the early days of the Internet when such early pioneering law firm web sites such as Siskind Susser Bland first appeared in 1995. In January 2000, William Paul, then President of the American Bar Association, created the ABA eLawyering Task Force to help law firms deliver on-line legal services. Thus, the idea of eLawyering was formally recognized as a way of delivering legal services. President Paul’s vision was that lawyers would be able to use the power of the Internet to serve clients of moderate means who have been priced out of the legal market. In fact the concept of eLawyering is much broader than that, and law firms of all sizes are using the Internet to serve clients of all income levels in ways that enhance client service and increase lawyer productivity.
Marc Lauritsen, co-chair of the eLawyering Task Force in an article in Law Practice Magazine in January-February, 2004, p. 36, succinctly defined eLawyering as:
“all the ways in which lawyers can do their work using the Web and associated technologies. These include new ways to communicate and collaborate with clients, prospective clients and other lawyers, produce documents, settle disputes and manage legal knowledge. Think of a lawyering verb—interview, investigate, counsel, draft, advocate, analyze, negotiate, manage and so forth—and there are corresponding electronic tools and techniques.”
This is a good start to understanding the concept of eLawyering. In addition to this definition I would add that eLawyering is an attitude about how to build a law firm business model which exploits web technologies for competitive advantage. The core of this business model is a law firm web site that incorporates interactive and web-enabled applications that supports interaction between lawyer and client along a number of dimensions.
During the Internet bubble the venture capital industry poured almost $50 million into a cluster of Internet legal sites that attempted to connect lawyers delivering legal services to this so-called “latent-market” for legal services. Most of these companies, including US.Law.com, Americounsel.com, and MyCounsel.com collapsed when venture capital stop flowing in 2001. In the following years, most law firms created what I call “first-generation” web sites that are ether little more than expanded yellow page ads, or at best, provide substantive content and free legal information to prospective clients. Only recently have we seen the emergence of law firm web sitesthat help clients solve their legal problems over the Internet in a way that is both satisfying and price competitive.
Moreover, with the rise of non-lawyer, well-capitalized legal service companies, likeLegalZoom which is reputedly generating more than $160,000,000 in annual revenues, there is a renewed interest in the legal profession, particularly among solos and small law firms, in exploring new ways to deliver legal services on-line.
It is time to re-visit the subject of eLawyering. Hence the inauguration of this blog.
This eLawyering Blog will report and comment on:
- virtual law firm web site sites that demonstrate eLawyering;
- regulatory obstacles to eLawyering and virtual practice;
- technologies that support eLawyering and virtual law practice;
- ethical issues related to eLawyering and virtual law practice and the delivery of legal services;
- new models for the delivery of legal services to the broad middle class ( e.g. access to justice issues) .
- marketing and legal service delivery issues;
- new business models for law firms and alternative legal service providers;
- and other subjects that that are related to delivering legal services online.
The opinions expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of Richard Granat and not the opinions of SmartLegalForms., Inc., a consumer-focused legal information services provider, or DirectLaw, Inc., a virtual law firm platform provider, companies that I provide leadership to as Founder and CEO, or the American Bar Association, or any other entity or organization with which I am associated.