Yay! Our first blog post! Madeeha and I attended the first Future Law conference last Friday hosted at Stanford, and two things became apparent: First, that there were a lack of women on the panel and at the conference in general. To solve that, Alison Monahan from The Girl’s Guide to Law School and I created a Google Group called Law Tech Ladies. It’s astounding to see that we had over 40 members in less than 24 hours! Secondly, it’s a bit difficult to find the right type of information about legal innovation unless you’re very plugged in to the community. To solve that, we resolved to attempt to blog about what we’re learning about this nascent but exciting community in hopes that others will read about it and get inspired. You see, we believe in increasing access to justice for everyday people. It does our mission no good to be territorial about lessons learned. We are but one player looking to solve a huge problem–everyone will have try and approach this issue a different way, and no one player is going to solve the issue on their own. So join us in this exciting journey, as we look forward to working WITH other innovators, and not against them.
Highlights of the 2013 Future Law conference
Charley Moore, CEO of Rocket Lawyer, started off the morning with a discussion on pricing legal services. “Innovation,” he said, “starts with pricing” and the legal industry has priced itself out of the reach of consumers. At the same time, we have a legal ecosystem where every attorney claims to offer first class services and be an “expert” in their field. We just can’t all be experts. In order for the legal profession to evolve, it needs to stop fighting over high fee, all-star cases and look to lower costs. Higher efficiency means that we as an industry can serve more clients at prices they can afford.
Richard Komaiko of AttorneyFee, a website on pricing transparency, remarked during the first panel that his website has been criticized on blogs and slapped with lawsuits simply because they accurately reveal what attorneys charge. In what other industry is there such a backlash against pricing transparency?
Eddie Hartman of LegalZoom commented that the biggest competitor to the legal market isn’t “us” (referring to the people in the room), but non-consumption. There’s a huge market of non-consumption of legal services, simply because legal services are too expensive for the average person.
Throughout the day, audience members opined that some of the biggest challenges were access to capital and regulation. The UK and Australia were aware of this problem, and have already made changes to their legal regulatory structure to increase access to justice. Others pointed out that although technology is an enabler, it will not fix the legal industry in and of itself. US regulations on the law practice also prohibit the deployment of technology, since it’s inevitable that someone out there will claim that the results are akin to giving legal advice.
The contract panel had a robust discussion on standardization of contracts. One of the more refreshing presentations was by Silverfume, Nevada’s one stop shop to incorporation. This simple and streamlined system even allows businesses to govern online via Skype meetings and propose business decisions on its platform. (Note: We couldn’t help but wonder when California, a tech hub, and Delaware, corporation hub, would jump on board and also provide such ease of access.)
The financial panel made it clear that venture capitalists are much more interested in investing in legal technology rather than legal services due to scalability. And, Margaret Hagan, the only female panelist of the day, introduced us to Law Drawings that visualize legal concepts and processes.
The day ended with a spectacular keynote by Dan Katz. Here are some statistics that absolutely floored me: 44,000 law students are graduating each year, yet 22,000 net law jobs are predicted for the next 10 years. At the same time, a large number of jobs today simply didn’t exist 10 years ago (think: SEO engineer). Dan is doing some pretty amazing stuff over at ReInvent law, so he’s sometime we’ll be keeping an eye on.
That’s all for now. Thanks to Tim Hwang and Stanford for coordinating this amazing conference. Read Tim’s thoughts on the day here. If you have suggestions on topics that might be useful, please leave a comment!