What a difference two years can make!
A couple of years ago, I wrote about the ABA Journal's 2011 list of "Legal Rebels"—lawyers who are changing the legal profession. The 2011 list consisted mostly of lawyers who were making minor adjustments to the structure of large law firms. Only two of the ten Legal Rebels that year were doing anything to make law more accessible to the general public. The 2011 list continued the magazine's trend of largely ignoring those who made a real difference in favor of corporate lawyers who were making changes that inched the profession toward the 21st century.
The ABA Journal has just released its 2013 Legal Rebels list, and the list is quite different from two years ago. Not one of the ten lawyers on the list comes from a large law firm, and several are true innovators. One of this year's honorees is Raj Abhyanker, the founder of Legal Force, a Palo-Alto company that offers customers a storefront of user-friendly legal books and forms to choose from and affordable 15-minute consultations with onsite lawyers. Another slot belongs to Michael Poulshock, whose Hammurabi Project aims to automate large bosies of law to make them understandable and usable by both lawyers and nonlawyers. And Renee Knake and Daniel Katz of Michigan State University's Reinvent Law program are training law students to reach the unserved middle class using innovative business models and technology.
In 2011, I noted that many innovators were hampered by prohibitions on outside investment in law practices. Those bans are still in place, but not if some of these Legal Rebels have anything to say about it. Professor Knake's scholarship focuses on these bans, which she believes are unconstitutional. The future may be closer than we think.