It’s an interesting time to be a lawyer in America. Jobs are hard to come by, wages are down, and faith in the legal system is at an all-time low. But the news isn’t all bad—in fact, this might even be the start of something great.
Ben Barton, Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, sees a lot of potential on the horizon. In his new book, Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession, he argues that the current job crunch—while tough for lawyers in the short term—will help bring about some much-needed reform. The reason the legal profession is struggling, he says, is that the current model is more focused on profits than results. By emphasizing billable hours, lawyers are disincentivized to be quick and efficient, which drives prices up so high that the average American can’t afford them. It’s a lose-lose situation for both lawyers and consumers.
But that’s starting to change, says Barton. Online services like Rocket Lawyer can handle a lot of straightforward paperwork like wills and divorce forms at a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney. Not only does that give more people affordable access to the law, it frees lawyers up to take on more complicated, interesting work.
It’s an interesting book, and we recommend it for anyone curious about how online legal services might shape the future of American law. (We do have a couple of quibbles, though. In our experience, the ABA has not been, as Barton says, “extremely resistant” to online legal services—in fact, we have successfully worked together.)
Have you read the book? Do you agree with Barton’s predictions? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession
Oxford University Press, 320 pages
Get the book