The University of Cincinnati Intellectual Property and Computer Law Journal

Article Title


Under the guise of consumer protection, lawyers and bar associations have used disparate litigious mechanisms to thwart, inadvertently or not, the use of self-help legal technology. This paper will demonstrate that such adversity is not logical after a consideration of the technical functions that the software performs and unduly restricts underserved populations’ access to the law because of the misapplication of policy to vaguely worded laws. This paper will provide a thorough analysis of legal action taken against the high-profile company LegalZoom under the theory of unauthorized practice of law provides direct support of this claim. Summary and critique of this litigation will demonstrate the real- world effects of the traditional legal industry’s wielding of the weapon of unauthorized practice of law in order to resist disruptive legal technology. It will further consider whether the application of the unauthorized practice of law rules to legal technology logically align with policy reasons for the implementation of these rules.

Comparing these policies to the American Bar Association recommendations on unauthorized practice of law regulation, this paper will consider their validity in light of emerging views of the relationship between the professional rules and legal technology. I argue that that more permissive regulation of self-help legal technology is better for two reasons. First, anticipating the precise scope of the benefits of legal technology in the future is not possible due to the fast pace of improvements. And second, permissive rules leave space for experimentation and innovation, maximizing the number of people who have access to affordable legal services.