It’s Time to Embrace Technology and Adapt to Change
Ramon A. Abadin
Florida Bar President 2015 - 2016
As I begin my year as president of The Florida Bar, the legal profession faces a time of challenges and change.
This is a great time to be a lawyer, as we embrace technology, remove impediments to creativity, and adapt to better serve our customers and give them access to their legal system.
If we’re going to succeed as a profession, we have to think beyond our current model of how we provide legal services to our customers. We need to stop thinking that only lawyers can solve legal problems. With the crisis of access to justice and the emergence of non-legal service providers who can help our customers, lawyers can’t stifle access with high costs, complicated rules and an unwillingness to change.
Technology is changing every aspect of our practice.
Our last three Florida Bar presidents — Gwynne Young, Eugene Pettis and Greg Coleman — saw how technology was affecting our profession. Thanks to their foresight, the Bar began preparing for that change, with the Vision 2016 commission.
Now we know what we’re facing. If we don’t address these issues — and address them now — we risk becoming obsolete.
Advances in technology have made access to legal knowledge readily accessible to everyone either for free or at very low cost. Technology has lowered the barriers to accessing legal information and changed the relationship between lawyers and our customers, and it threatens to bypass lawyers entirely by delivering necessary and affordable services directly to our customers.
Technology empowers non-lawyer legal service providers and creates powerhouses such as LegalZoom, RocketLawyer and Avvo.com. Scores of online companies sell do-it-yourself forms for wills, bankruptcy and immigration. Courthouse kiosks offer do-it-yourself divorce services.
It’s been estimated that half of what lawyers do today will soon be done by technology and by nonlawyers — for a fraction of what lawyers charge today. A business professor at the University of Miami says computers eventually will pass the bar exam and represent defendants in court. Far-fetched? Ask the folks at IBM.
Yet, these changes can enhance our practices and help us help more people.
Here in Florida, 60 percent of the people feel they cannot afford a lawyer or don’t even know that they need one. Yet we say we have an abundance of lawyers looking for work. We can connect lawyers with this under-served population.
Globalization offers even more opportunities if lawyers are willing to grab them.
Our customers are telling us they want accessible, affordable and convenient legal services. We need to decide: Are we going to ignore our customers or seize the opportunity?
Technology can free lawyers to do the work we need and want to do, at any time and from any place. Maybe others will handle routine matters for our customers. If so, we will have more time for the higher-value work that we’d rather be doing anyway.
The more than 100,000 members of The Florida Bar don’t need any new initiatives. We have a lot to deal with already, and Vision 2016 is making good progress.
What we need is the courage to change. Throughout this year, I will be motivating lawyers and the Bar’s leadership. I will challenge all of us to think differently, open our minds and embrace change.
We really have no choice.
In law and in life, there are risks. With determination and an openness to change, we can preserve our noble profession and the notion of liberty and justice for all.
South Florida Legal Guide Midyear 2015 Edition