Recently the American Bar Association’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services published a paper on how to make legal checkups more effective and widely available to the public. Responsive Law believes the guidelines have promise and issued comments on ways the guidelines could further benefit consumers.
Legal checkups are a critical tool that can identify when consumers’ problems have legal solutions. One example would be an online questionnaire where a consumer plugs in their information, and software judges whether or not their problem has a legal solution. There are millions of people in the United States that lack access to legal services, many of whom do not even know they have a problem those services could solve. In New York State alone there are nearly two million people who don’t realize their problems have legal solutions. Legal checkups would allow people to receive immediate feedback and legal solutions and resources.
The Commission’s guidelines would protect a consumer’s privacy, require the accuracy of documents used for checkups, ensure that all checkup providers are truthful and honest with consumers, and that they must provide a list of legal resources to the consumer if a problem is found.
The language in the issue paper seems to indicate that the ABA envisions bar associations as the primary promoters of legal checkups to the public. Responsive Law urged the Commission that the private sector has a role to play in providing legal checkups to consumers. A major ad campaign by a private business can do more than PSAs from the bar to raise awareness of the need for legal checkups. For instance the online legal service marketplace Avvo spent $20 million this year on an ad campaign that raised awareness of the need for legal services.
However the ABA could help consumers even more by clarifying that non-lawyers can give these checkups. This would give consumers the choice between a lawyer or a trained non-lawyer. Without having to worry about fighting court battles just to keep their businesses afloat, non-lawyer service providers could invest more into innovating this field and provide more legal checkups to a public in desperate need of them.
To read Responsive Law’s full testimony click here.
James Duffy is a Responsive Law Intern.