on their own successfully? It is precise-
ly this dynamic that has led to the rise
in online services such as LegalZoom.
How do we harness this ability of the
consuming public as a way to enhance
the services we provide rather than
view it as an encroachment on our pro-
fession? As I discussed in my column
last month, clients are resorting to a
“Home Depot” mentality of doing it
themselves anyway, so it seems there
is greater strength for the profession
in understanding that fact and work-
ing to determine what portions of our
work can be commoditized through
technology and other means while re-
taining the pieces that are essential to
having representation by a lawyer.
There Is More Control in Letting Go
The reality is this: technology and other
drivers will continue to move legal work
out the side door in response to a public
that demands more affordable legal services and a system that is more easily
accessed. To me, there is more control in
letting go. Letting go, for example, of the
pieces that don’t require the training that
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we received in law school.
To (admittedly) oversimplify legal
services, think of a grid with four boxes
(see illustration above). The top two boxes
represent what I believe to be the special
training that I received in law school; the
bottom two boxes capture the work that
can be, and already is being, commoditized. Does it make sense to let go and
think of ways to allow the consuming
public to access those bottom two boxes
more easily and affordably?
What’s at Stake?
The cornerstone of our system is based
on the rule of law. As I wrote about in my
column in March 2012 (“Lawyer Volunteers: Preserving our Democracy and Enhancing our Profession”), the foundation
of our system requires that the judiciary
be fair and impartial and free from undue
influence by the other branches of government; a fair and impartial judiciary
relies on an independent legal profession
free of similar pressures from outside
influences in order to preserve its independence. That is why lawyers have been
given self-regulation independent of the
legislative and executive branches. That
is why we must preserve the system we
have by meeting the needs of the public.
It is imperative that we seize the moment and innovate. While many of these
trends and implications are overwhelming, I think this time for our profession
presents exciting opportunity. And what
excites and motivates lawyers more
than a challenging problem? I say, let’s
get to solving! NWL
Paula Littlewood is the WSBA executive
director and can be reached at paulal@
wsba.org or 206-239-2120.