Technology is often cited as the game-changing factor in the future of the legal profession. There’s an endless parade of new devices, plus software is being developed that can do some of the work lawyers used to do. Legal entrepreneurs harness the power of the cloud to power new business models.
What it’s doing to the legal profession is just one side of the equation. For clients – actual and potential – rapidly changing technology can both expand their reach to consumers, and be a legal minefield.
People who conduct any part of their business over the internet, for example, will have to start stepping carefully once the federal government brings its controversial anti-spam law into force some time next year.
“Don't be fooled by its name. You don't need to be a spammer, or even be located in Canada, for legislation known as ‘Canada’s anti-spam law’ or ‘CASL’ to regulate important elements of your business,” Osler warns its clients on its website.
“Many everyday activities – such as sending an email message to a customer, operating a company website and making a mobile application available for download – will soon be subject to new, detailed rules that will likely require you to make significant changes to your operational practices or face significant fines.”
That means one thing for big companies, charities or other organizations with teams of lawyers to help them navigate. But small businesses, which may rely on the internet for survival, could collapse under the pressure of the tougher regulatory environment, and the increases in legal fees that accompany it.
“One of the client communities most badly affected by increased legal services costs is the small business sector,” writes one observer on the CBA Legal Futures website. “Unlike the ‘mom & pop’ small business types of 50 years ago, many sole proprietors or small start-ups need access to very sophisticated legal advice on matters such as intellectual property and international commercial transactions.”
Once again the legal futures conversation comes down to the clients. How will it be possible to provide the complex services they need at a price all can live with?