Making Law Accessible
Making Law Accessible
Q: How many lawyer jokes are there?
A: Only three. The rest are true stories.
You can find lawyer jokes everywhere. They have their own category. Everyone’s heard at least one of them. There is even a website dedicated to the genre here.
I believe lawyer jokes are popular because people are tired of paying high fees and receiving poor service. While this does not apply to all lawyers, there’s a growing feeling that the profession “under delivers”.
The most common complaints revolve around costs, availability, and communication. Lawyer are seen as expensive. Many are so busy, they do not return calls promptly (or at all). Finally, when you do meet your lawyer, it can be hard to understand him or her because he or she speaks “legalese”.
Access to reliable, convenient and affordable legal services is a problem. The Canadian Bar Association (CBA), a national organization representing lawyers, released a report in 2013 stating that fundamental change was (is) required to fix the problem. While the CBA was referring to the court system and dispute resolution services, the problem is widespread. Making law accessible is not as easy as one would hope.
He also cites an alarming statistic from the CBA: Lawyers are involved in only 1 in 7 legal problems facing the population.
So where does that leave you when you need legal services?
The consumer most in need is the middle class and small to mid-sized businesses. You fall within the gap between high net worth people and large companies who can afford high-end law firms (think marble floors) and the poorest who are able to access legal aid.
While the pickings are slim, you do have choices, but you need to find them first. The good news is that many of us are aware of the problem and working on solutions.
Part of the solution is attitude. Another part is leveraging technology. And a third part is communication.
I will indulge in a little self-promotion here (for only 2 short paragraphs) in an effort to provide you an example of a solution. While I like to think of myself as someone who thinks outside the box, I am by no means the only lawyer who is attempting to provide legal services competently and affordably. In Ontario, Axesslaw.com is an example of innovation.
Here at TLR Law, we are incorporating all of these parts to provide you with an alternative. I invite you to browse the site. One of the most convenient aspects is our Online Services module. Right now we are offering the ability to incorporate a company without the need to attend a lawyer’s office. We will be adding other services in 2017. If you have a suggestion on the type of service you would like made available, please comment below.
We provide this service because we want to make this as convenient as possible at an affordable cost. You can access these services from your home or office, phone or tablet anytime you want.
(end of self-promotion)
Why do I care about making law accessible?
I could have joined a traditional law firm and abide by the status quo. I would have made a comfortable living. Large firms have big clients who pay well. But I know deep down, I would not have been fulfilled.
I haven’t always been a lawyer. I went to law school at the age of 37 and was called to the bar at 41. Prior to my career in law, I was in sales (12 years) and prior to that, I was a Private (and eventually Corporal) in the Army (8 years).
I remember what it was like to attend a lawyer’s office. I felt intimidated and a little frustrated because I didn’t really understand what my lawyer told me.
Friends and acquaintances also shared their frustrations with their lawyer because he or she never got back to them. When their legal problem was “solved”, they often complained about the cost.
I was a consumer of legal services. I wasn’t happy with the process. When I started law school, I wanted to find a better way. Now that I am part of the profession, I strongly believe that we owe, you the consumer, a better deal.
You can bank, book trips, and you can buy almost anything online. You can even see your doctor’s office wait times online. The technology aspect is one of convenience. Why hasn’t the legal profession embraced these ideals? Why haven’t we made it easier for you to access legal services?
There are a number of reasons, and I won’t list them, other than to say that lawyers are averse to risk and we see risk everywhere. So, as a profession, we don’t like change, because change brings unknowns. And when you bring unknowns into the equation, you bring unknown risks and we can’t quantify them.
It’s Ok to raise concerns. But it’s not Ok to stop there.
We have an ethical obligation to find ways to package legal services in way and manner that the consumer can access. Otherwise, we hide behind legal traditions and excuses, while society evolves without a basic service.
Even worse, individuals get their legal advice from unqualified advisors or they google for answers, compounding the problem.
So, I hope to be part of the solution. I hope I am able to provide value to you. I hope I am able to bridge the gap between high-end law firms and online legal forms.
As stated above, the consumers in most need of these services are the middle class and small to medium sized businesses. I know these consumers because I was (and remain) one. As a private in the army, I had to dig holes and sleep in them. I know what law looks like from the outside, and I want to help change that.
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Disclaimer – Legalese
I appreciate the irony of this disclaimer, but while I am critical of the rules, I must still play by them, so here goes….This article is presented for informational purposes only. The content does not constitute legal advice or solicitation and does not create a solicitor client relationship (this means that I am not your lawyer until we both agree that I am). If you are seeking advice on specific matters, please contact Philippe Richer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 204.925.1900. We cannot consider any unsolicited information sent to the author as solicitor-client privileged (this means confidential).