Soft-Launch of Wiki-Law.com: Our Legal System is Ripe for Disruption

image So, as some of you know, I am litigating with my business partners at JoVE, which recently almost lead to my being jailed.  So I think I am going to start writing about my experience in a bit greater detail and how it affected me.

And I am also taking this opportunity to “soft-launchwww.Wiki-Law.com.

So, some things I’ve learned:

  1. Going pro se is harder than it should be (especially when your partners are paying an unethical lawyer $400 an hour to go against you… though I can seek to sanction said lawyer, but that’s for a different post.)
  2. The legal system feels a bit like the medical system: for lawyers by lawyers.

Lawyers charge an arm, a leg, and exactly half of your first-born (injustice reference, get it? get it?).  They then proceed to fill their proverbial lungs with air only to let it out with such force as to uphold their reputation in both volume and substance of jokes that we all have heard:

“Scientists started experimenting on lawyers – there are things that even rats won’t do.”

My scientist friends say rats are very intelligent…  and nice…  I am slandering rats…  sorry rats…

Anyway, to a newcomer, the legal system seems to be very similar to any elite – it has its own language, its own rituals, its own cliques, etc.  Much like at JoVE people would say “elucidate”, in court you don’t ask the court to do something, you “pray” for it. Yes. Really. You “pray for relief”.

In MA, you file everything using paper.  To go through previous cases, you have to request the docket at the courthouse.  Same if a pro se litigant wants to get “paper numbers” to properly identify documents in pleadings (lawyers have access to an online system). It also seems that lawyers and judges and clerks and everyone know each other…  sprinkle some thinly-veiled disdain for pro se litigants, and you have our judicial system from my present vantage point. Take this with a grain of salt – a data point of one.

And on one hand, it’s all understandable – inefficiency is there for historical reasons and the system is evolving, and I am sure that even the loudest and most offensive lawyers share in our collective societal values (or I should hope).  And even the frustration with pro se litigants is understandable – in law, like fixing a car, would it not be frustrating to be building an F1 car with someone who can’t tell a wrench from a hamburger.  There is an explanation for everything, but is it right?

And worst of all, people are intimidated by the system.  We should not be intimidated by our judicial system any more than by our Legislative or Executive branches. Our government is there to serve us, not the other way around. That said, even when things don’t go our ways (and they often don’t), we shouldn’t lose our appreciation and respect for the system.  It’s not perfect, but, given our democratic society, it is only as good as we make it.  So we only have ourselves to blame if we don’t like it.

So what’s the conclusion?  The system is antiquated and we need to work to evolve it.

I propose that the problem is that our judicial system doesn’t get nearly enough love. Love’s what it needs.  Love and disruption.  Disruption in the technical sense.

So, how can our system be fixed?  Here are some of my, perhaps somewhat naive, suggestions:

  • Education: add law classes into highschool – this will remove anxiety and increase quality of pleadings. Or perhaps Khan Academy or similar free/low-cost education?
  • Online: move everything online and make it transparent – there should be no LexisNexis bias, and why the F should I have to go to Woburn to review existing cases if I am unable to afford PACER?
  • Crowdsource: a streamlined online system that allows for public participation (discussion).  Cases are similar, knowledge is accumulated. At the end, the purpose of the judicial system is to describe the truth and then rule on the gray areas.  Crowdsourcing can assist in describing the truth in a way that would reduce need for expenditure of legal resources.
  • Organize Knowledge: there needs to be more organization that would make it easier for people to get to relevant knowledge.  Here is an example about injunctions – took me a good half hour with some help from a friend to find the right case.  And there are probably better cases out there. Is this really necessary? This information should be readily available.

Some monetization possibilities to make this sustainable:

  • ODesk: once a draft of a motion is uploaded, anyone can offer to review and make adjustments
  • Urbis Model: reviews themselves can be turned into a unit of currency (btw, happened to Urbis?)
  • Engagement: legal firms can offer to undertake issues and lead the project
  • Advertising: legal firms can offer templates for specific issues, which creates a flow of clients

Lawyers should not be charging $400 an hour – this seems to be a sign of gross inefficiency in the system. Lawyers are smart people, no doubt, but there are a lot of smart people out there who can research cases, write pleadings, etc. and with so many people looking for a job, there has to be a way to generate jobs while creating value here.  And the market needs to evolve to be able to provide the same (or better) product for less money so that I don’t have to act pro se…

And that is why I’ve put together www.Wiki-Law.com (thanks to Olga K. for giving me the nudge 🙂 )

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Filed under JoVE, Legal, Musings, wiki-law.com

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