Lower Legal Cost – Same Legal Expertise?

Yes it is possible.

And from it follows increased access to justice, as night follows day.

Re-reading Richard Susskind’s book “The End of Lawyers?” this weekend, I was struck by how straightforward it is.

Advocacy cannot be replaced by improved technology or outsourcing. It is like an element: it cannot be further reduced. Quality advocacy is the result of the proper analysis of facts, and preparation. It may be improved by experience, but the advocate must have dissected out what has to be proved, and must know the factual record cold. There are no shortcuts.

The client cannot expect to pay less for the time the advocate must spend. The advocate cannot be expected to lower his or her rate.

However the advocate’s task can be readily separated from the cost of routine legal work – document analysis and organization, interim motions, legal research, routine correspondence and scheduling. Much of that work can be done with the aid of technology and paralegals, at lower cost.

The advocate views this work as a cost centre, not a profit centre.

This is how to lower legal costs without compromising the quality of advocacy, increase access to justice and to protect and advance rights.

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Comments

  1. Good points John. But, use of advanced technology and a novel firm structure created by experienced counsel can GREATLY reduce the need for high billable rates as a result of lower overhead and the lack of a partner pyramid structure (see http://www.anticipatelaw.com as but one example). All the best.

  2. Hi John, I would be interested to hear if you have heard of Legal Expense insurance yet? In Europe, it is widely purchased by individuals and businesses, and is a great way to improve access to justice.

  3. I agree that advocacy skills cannot be automated, though they may be supported by automation. But that statement does not justify the claim that advocates cannot be expected to lower their hourly rates. Why not? If the market will not support those rates, then the advocate will charge less or work less.

    The quality of advocacy is not logically or legally related to a particular dollar amount of fees.

    For that matter, the quality of advocacy does not presuppose a fee based on an hourly rate at all, rather than some other basis for compensation.

  4. Thanks to Geoff, Chris and John for these lively comments.

    I completely agree advocates can only charge what the market will bear. But they can charge that much. Competition from other advocates (like Geoff’s firm) will determine what that rate is. I think we are all on the same page.

    Chris I have heard of legal expense insurance. I did a piece for SLAW on it last November. I am sure it also improves access to justice.