The Twenty-First Century Delivery of Legal Services: Thoughts for Legal Education
Rigertas, Laurel A.
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The twenty-first century lawyer will face rapid and unsettling changes in the way legal services are delivered. Legal futurists foresee many aspects of legal services being delivered more efficiently with the use of technology. For example, future breakthroughs in artificial intelligence may expand the ability to automate many tasks that currently require the skill of a lawyer. Similarly, less complex legal services such as the drafting of wills and trusts are being commoditized and provided more quickly and cheaply by new market entrants, such as LegalZoom, which provide on-line documents to millions of satisfied consumers. Additionally, new categories of licensed legal professionals are beginning to challenge established models of delivering legal services, and will continue to do so. These changes are all, and will continue to be, disruptive. Although every business faces disruptive changes at some point, in the legal services area these changes involve unique issues, particularly when they encounter the barriers that control entry into a regulated profession that is intertwined with the judicial branch of government. For example, as new technologies and market players increase the public's access to legal services, questions arise about how to define and protect the fundamental values of the legal profession, how to maintain the independence of lawyers and the judicial branch, how to define the practice of law, and how to increase the public's access to affordable and competent legal services. For legal educators, it can be challenging-and often impossible-to imagine how these changes will affect our students during their professional careers. Furthermore, although we can envision some of the changes on the horizon, others are not yet within view. Within this framework, legal education needs to prepare students for the future. This essay examines three categories of disruptive changes that will be relevant to the future delivery of legal services-technological advancements, new regulated categories of legal professionals, and new unregulated market players. During their careers, today's law students will have to grapple with how these changes will affect the legal profession and access to legal services. This essay provides some thoughts for legal educators about preparing law students for this task. Part I of this essay will give a brief overview of the three changes and how they may impact the future delivery of legal services. Part II will discuss how these changes challenge the identity and values of the legal profession and how these challenges should impact the future of legal education.
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