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Monday, 16 March 2009

Thoughts on hacking legal

I have been thinking a lot of the legal industry lately as one of my friends has the unfortunate experience of being retrenched. When we were talking about the industry in general, it occurs to me how deeply out of sync it is with the way our economy is going. I decided to post some of our conversations and my thinking here for further sharing and discussions.

Legal practice
The practice itself will become more consumer oriented, with greater emphasis on personalised and affordable services made possible by web technologies. We will see virtual lawyers and a pull platform that gathers the necessary expertise across the network to help the consumer. All these means taking down the walls that have make lawyers immune to the restructuring of the economy.

Legal research
Legal research is now costly and time consuming. The entire industry needs to learn from Google Print. We need services that index all the legal case materials, make them searchable and allow any users to tap into legal materials as easily as a Google search. Fastcase is one approach to tackling this problem. There will be room for many more.

Related to research is the area of legal publishing. We know now that publishing (in particular newspapaers) is on its last legs. The same will happen to legal publishing, which suffers from even more price discrimination. A new model will be needed for legal publishing.

Legal education
Like the rest of the education sector, there is a disconnect between what was taught and what students eventually find when entering the legal workforce. In order words, legal education don't prepare students to practice law. Add to this the high cost of a law degree and you can see how ripe this area is for disruption.

One area that might be interesting to think about is micro law schools. We have seen the success of micro breweries and micro lending, why not micro schools? In fact, I am starting to see early steps being taken right now...

Electronic legal documents
Many legal transactions can actually be made without lawyers. That is the reason why elawyering will start to replace lawyers that don't provide much value beyond preparing templated documents. This is a great example of how electronic legal documents is more efficient than costly lawyers.

Refining economics of contracts
The biggest opportunity may be to eliminate the cost of contracting all together by reinventing less costly contracts. This may inevitably means creating market exchanges in areas where contracts are the most costly, where information is made artificially scare. This is a big big opportunity...

Thoughts on hacking finance