Betsy McKenzie's Homework page


Homework Week 1:
List of 5 Good things about Virtual Law Practice:
1. Flexible practice - space & time
2. Lower overhead in terms of office rental needs, secretary,
3. Reach new client base - digital natives
4. Opportunities to unbundle legal services are assisted by the virtual law practice set up, I think
5. Reach wider client base - Kimbro assisted Ohio natives doing work in N. Carolina. She reached them because of the web based practice.

List of 5 Things That Can go Wrong in a Virtual Law Practice:
1. Easy to accidentally lose control of the data sending things over the Internet (wrong e-mail address, for instance, or insecure connections)
2. Be certain of the partnership for the 3rd party company working on the support for the virtual office
3. Lack of good technical support (computer problems, connectivity, network, etc), both for lawyer & for the client
4. Software glitches between versions (Microsoft!!)
5. Credibility problems... filing problems too.

Definitions of Virtual Law Practice or E-lawyering: (from
http://apps.americanbar.org/buslaw/blt/2003-01-02/walsh.html , visited 2/13/12)

..."the utilization of the Internet and e-mail networks for the delivery of legal services" has been dubbed by many as eLawyering. It is a broad term that includes Web- based companies as well as existing law firms that have supplemented their traditional practices with online services....

[Here are examples of how it has played out:]

LegalAdviceLine, both an administrative company and an actual law firm, is one of the early success stories. Neil J. Ruther and Mark Cauchon co- founded the company out of Towson, Md., in 1997, on a test basis and then put it into full operation in January 1998. The company has seen "enormous growth" in just the past few years and now serves tens of thousands of people a year, Ruther said.

The Web site, LegalAdviceLine.com, offers several innovative services at flat rates. For $34.95, customers can talk to and get specific legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their jurisdiction. They can also submit questions online and choose to receive their answer either by phone or by e-mail, although Ruther said the bulk of the business is still in phone calls.

Customers can have a lawyer licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction review a document for $49.95 or can create their own state-specific legal document using the company's Document Assessment at Hyperspeed (DASH) program. The program works like a logic tree, with a smart questionnaire form adapting to each answer the customer provides. The company also offers professional arbitration services for $99. ...

In rural communities, Staudt said, courthouses are often part of civic complexes that offer additional services. Since many people pass through, it makes sense to make courthouses access points in those communities. Public libraries and even Laundromats are also practical locations to provide Internet access, he said. Some areas, however, have taken unconventional approaches. Ventura County, Calif., for example, has a "Mobile Unit" that travels to different communities within the county to serve as an extension of the courthouse.

Another category of eLawyering ventures is lawyer/client marketplaces — sites where clients can "shop" for legal services. (bidding)...

"Essentially, it's the underutilized serving the underserved," said Keane, explaining the premise of eLawyering. The buzzword, he said, is "access to justice."...

The final category of eLawyering is law-related organizations. SquareTrade is one such organization that specializes in online dispute resolution. In the '90s, small claims courts just weren't doing the trick in handling many of the problems arising from e-commerce. When a buyer from Nebraska and a seller from Chile needed arbitration, which law applied? And if it were possible for the parties to agree on a time and place to meet, was the dollar amount of the claim worth the hassle and the lawyer fees?

President and CEO Steve Abernethy, San Francisco, saw the opportunity for a new business solution. He developed SquareTrade in August 1999 with the vision of "reinventing law" and making e-commerce disputes a thing of the past. SquareTrade launched a partnership with eBay in February 2000 and the rest, as they say, is history.

The company now has 30 employees and a network of 250 mediators and lawyers (many bilingual) in 100 different countries. Within about two years, SquareTrade has settled more than 250,000 disputes worldwide. It has also formed partnerships with companies such as VeriSign, PayPal, eLance and the California Association of Realtors.

One of its services is the SquareTrade Seal Program, which provides background checks on merchants and pre-approves those that have a track record of providing good customer service. Buyers dealing with sellers that display the seal, then, are insured for $450 against fraud transactions. The seal is shown on more than 300,000 eBay listings every day....

The second service is online dispute resolution, which SquareTrade provides to customers through its partnerships with eBay and other companies. An interactive, password-protected chat room allows most users to resolve their disputes directly and free of charge. If the dispute escalates, SquareTrade charges each party a small flat fee (which eBay subsidizes) and assigns a mediator to the case based on language requirements and other factors. Most disputes are settled within two weeks.

Part of SquareTrade's success comes from the fact that it doesn't arbitrate — it mediates. This eliminates jurisdictional questions and yields a solution without assigning blame. Use of the Internet also helps move cases to closure much faster than with traditional arbitration.

Cybersettle is another example of a company that has been successful in online dispute resolution. Where SquareTrade focuses on e-commerce, Cybersettle focuses on insurance claims.