Allison Shields (AS): What is the main message of Automating Legal Services?
Hugh Logue (HL): There is an appalling justice gap between those who can afford legal advice and those who can’t. However, the reality is that there will never be enough lawyers or sufficiently funded government services to come anywhere near to closing this gap. This latent demand for legal services will never be met through law firms’ current delivery model. Now, for the first time, we are at the point where technology is available to help close the justice gap and deliver on the founding principles of a democratic society.
AS: What inspired you to write this book?
HL: After I graduated from law school, I completed a six-month internship with a refugee charity in Oxford that supported people who were being held in immigration detention centers. The people I met and spoke to were very vulnerable, including mothers with young children, who could not speak English and had little idea of what was going on. I soon realized that, while each case had unique aspects, overall the drafting of bail applications, judicial reviews, and so on was quite repetitive so I set up basic macro-enabled templates, forms, and spreadsheets that enabled me to simply click on answers to automate the drafting of various applications. This helped me to clear a backlog of routine cases and gave me time to focus on the more complex ones.
AS: Many of the people I met in the detention centers paid huge sums of money to fraudulent “legal advisors” who preyed on vulnerable people by handing out leaflets outside churches in large immigrant communities. They were told to make all sorts of false statements to authorities that ultimately worked against them by destroying their credibility. Their fate might have been very different if they had a free or low-cost app on their smartphone that gave them the right guidance, instead of falling victim to fraudsters.
HL: After completing this internship I started to consider the potential of the intersection where content, technology, and the law meet.
AS: What experience, knowledge or special training helped you to write this book?
HL: As the Lead Analyst for Legal Technology at Outsell, I spend my days speaking to the CEOs of legal software and information companies to get an understanding of their products, their strategies, and their company’s potential. I also regularly speak to lawyers, legal service consumers, academics and analysts around the world. All this feeds into my research, enabling me to write regular papers and reports for Outsell’s clients on various legal technologies, trends, and opportunities. A few years ago I wrote an Outsell report on automated legal services, and after I spoke to someone that worked at the ABA, they suggested I write a book on the same subject.
AS: What problem faced by lawyers does Automating Legal Services solve/address?
HL: The provision of legal services has not changed that much in centuries. While it is true that law firms have grown massively in size, become more international, and introduced back-office technology, they still deliver their services in much the same way as they did in the 18th century. The last three major industrial revolutions did not really have an effect on the legal services industry. Now the technology and demand are there to make automated legal services a reality and a success. If law firms miss the current opportunity to launch their own automated legal services, others will, and instead of evolving in a sustainable way, legal services will be disrupted, potentially driving many law firms out of business.
AS: What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?
HL: The challenge with writing about emerging technologies is that within a few weeks of writing a chapter, a new technology, start-up or product launched and I would have to go back and rewrite a section. Fortunately, my editors understood, and I was able to make changes right up until it went to press.
AS: What do you think will surprise readers most about your book?
HL: Until I started doing research for this book, I hadn’t quite realized the full extent of the justice gap and the latent demand for legal services around the world. There are different studies, and variations between countries, but the overwhelming majority of people who experience legal problems do not get the support of an authority or a third party to help them to resolve it. Whilst I support increasing public legal aid funding, even in the highly unlikely of government legal aid doubling, it would still only be a drop in the ocean in terms of closing the justice gap. Clearly a more radical and innovative approach is also needed.
AS: What is the most important takeaway readers will get from Automating Legal Services?
HL: The automation of legal services will not happen overnight and law practices need to get ahead of legal tech start-ups and marketplace websites and think about new ways in which their expertise and experience can be brought directly in front of clients in an automated format. Law firms have nothing to fear and plenty to gain from automated legal services. It is about serving a new and far bigger addressable market and making legal practices more profitable. It is about improving client experiences by making legal services more convenient. It is about lawyers getting back to what attracted them to law in the first place instead of doing soul-destroying mundane repetitive work. But above all else, it is about opening up access to justice to those who have little or no chance of engaging with the current legal system.