Technology: Breaking the law, article in the Financial Times

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The Financial Times has an article from Michael Skapnier, Technology: Breaking the Law, about the coming coming changes to the legal system — both in terms of professionals and consumers — with new technologies online.

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One sector, however, has carried on as if technology had never been invented: the law. Lawyers’ working practices “have not changed much since the time of Charles Dickens”, say father-and-son team Richard and Daniel Susskind in their book, The Future of the Professions.

Lawyers still provide high-cost customised advice. The highest-earning legal partners preside over pyramid-shaped firms, raking in huge fees while teams of junior lawyers do the drudge work of searching for precedents and drawing up contracts.

Could that be about to change? Many lawyers sneer at the idea that their work could ever be done by a website or app. But many outside the profession, and some inside, are developing the tools they think will turn traditional legal practice upside down.

They have a powerful argument: few people these days can afford a lawyer.

The cost is prohibitive, says Rosemary Martin, group general counsel at Vodafone. “If we corporations think it’s expensive, I can’t imagine how small businesses and individuals manage.”

Many smaller companies are taking risks. “They’re googling for legal advice. It would make lawyers’ hair stand on end,” she says.

Many people are alarmed by the rising cost of legal advice. “Our system of justice has become unaffordable to most,” Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, said in his 2015 report to the UK parliament.

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