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The article below has been republished in full courtesy of Law360, written by Jonathan Petts and Rohan Pavuluri, Upsolve .
Law360, New York (July 27, 2016, 10:16 AM ET) -- In accounting, consumers have TurboTax to complete personal tax returns. In medicine, patients have WebMD to diagnose their conditions. And in teaching, students have Khan Academy. Despite tech advances in e-discovery, legal research and trial presentation, though, the delivery of legal services has remained largely unchanged since the time of Charles Dickens. One or more lawyers researches, writes and litigates for a single client.
This “a la carte” one-lawyer-per-client model has worked well enough in business law. But it has generally failed us in providing legal aid for low-income Americans. Using this model, the legal aid clinics must turn down four out of every five clients. Waiting times of three to six months are commonplace. And because these organizations never have enough capacity to service outstanding requests, they have no reason to market their services in ways that traditional businesses do. This is highly problematic because the people who need legal help the most often don’t recognize that they have a legal problem. For example, almost 47 million Americans live under the federal poverty line, and the same number have average household credit card debt of $16,000. But Americans filed a mere 523,000 individual Chapter 7 bankruptcies last year, presumably due to lack of awareness of this avenue of consumer relief.Because there will never be enough free lawyers to satisfy demand from low-income Americans, we need to leverage technology to allow the legal expertise of one lawyer to reach hundreds or thousands of clients at once, where possible. In particular, we must pay attention to four key areas of technology:
Some of the prescriptions above may seem radical and inconsistent with our traditional ideal of serving each pro bono client as completely as if he were a paying one. But this well-intentioned mindset has impeded our progress in serving low-income Americans. If we’re truly serious about increasing access to justice, the solution won’t come from incremental efforts (laudable as they are) like increasing mandatory pro bono requirements by a few hours. As Cuban baseball coaches used to say, “You don’t get off the island by bunting.”In our view, the potential for increasing access to legal aid through legal tech is limitless. We’re excited to see what the future brings.