Historically law has been provided as a service allowing the state and individuals to enforce their rights or obligations. The online world has, however, changed the nature of legal services to some extent. Disputes can now occur purely in an online environment, individuals search for lawyers online, legal advice is given without human interaction, legal documents are created using online services.
There are both challenges and possibilities resulting from this development, both for lawyers who may provide some or all of these services online and for individuals who use the services to help them in their everyday legal matters. Lawyers face competitors outside the traditional legal market, whilst being able to reach a wider audience or a niche market. Individuals must be able to rely on the advice they receive, and will therefore want to know that those who offer online services are trusted legal professionals. At the same time, they may be able to avoid a legal problem entirely by taking advantage of such services at a much earlier stage than has traditionally been the case.
- making online services available to a wider audience,
- creating services that connect legal issues, rather than focusing solely on one topic,
- outsourcing some work from lawyers to technology,
- preparing lawyers and legal professionals better for their future careers e.g. through updating legal education.
This last point is perhaps of most interest to us at IRI. It is not just about educating students in the letter of the law, but how law is presented to the public and the way in which legal advice is given both now and in the future. One next step, of course, would be law as an app…
Pam Storr & Christine Kirchberger