Legal Market Disruption

The Atlantic runs one of the usual nonsensical articles about how lawyers are too expensive and how legal zoom and the like are the solution to all of our problems.

As a practicing lawyer, with a solo practice, I am well aware of the costs of legal services. The problem with all articles of this sort is that they ignore the facts that legal work is complex, time consuming and ultimately entirely necessary to prove the evidence presented.

In the example given, the author assumes the truth of everything stated by his protagonist plaintiff. The court, however, cannot assume the truth of even the most sympathetic litigant. This must be proven. This fact finding process has value and lawyers are necessary to accomplish that for most people.

Lawyers are highly educated and experienced. Almost all of my clients need help navigating the system, understanding the legal aspects of their dispute and a strategy for achieving their goals. Many are quite intelligent and successful in their own businesses, but they are experts in their fields and I am an expert in mine.

The article is also encouraging litigation of many minor consumer disputes that would just clog the system. These disputes are typically not large enough to really justify invoking the powerful machinery of a civil court.

On top of that, many consumer protection statutes have fee shifting statutes that require the loser to pay the opposing party’s legal fees. This has made many lawyers willing to take a case on a contingent fee, which is only paid on victory.

As to legal zoom and other document sites, they simply aren’t that cheap. I can easily provide a form document for a similar price. I am more expensive when the clients need more complex advice and actually want guidance.

The assumption behind these types of articles is that the market is a failure because lawyers are overpriced, ignoring the possibility that the market is in fact valuing lawyers correctly.

This article however is explicit: lawyers are overpaid. I suspect many of my colleagues would disagree. This is not about overhead, which is not that high. We don’t need form preparation components for our websites, we need more time in the day.

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