Avvo Founder Tells Lawyers to ‘Get Rid of UPL’ if they want Innovation and Access to Justice

The talks, entitled “Issues of Concern to the Legal Profession” in the day’s program, grew out of the research of the Commission on the Future of Legal Services. That commission was created last year by outgoing ABA president William Hubbard to address the problems created by the rise in pro se litigants, the ongoing lack of court funding and the rise of technology to fill some of those gaps.

Its research is ongoing, but a selection of commission members and invited guests presented some of their findings in a series of short talks in the style of the trendy TED Talks series.

The moderator was commission member Phoebe Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden. She kicked off the talk by noting that many self-represented litigants don’t even identify the cost of representation as a problem, because they don’t believe lawyers can help them.

Perhaps the most unusual speaker for this crowd was Avvo founder and CEO Mark Britton, who urged the audience to start “looking at this through the lens of innovation.” The legal profession is concerned about the unauthorized practice of law, he said, but that keeps innovators out. Meanwhile, he said, four out of five low-income litigants are unrepresented; 7.5 million people have asked questions on Avvo; and 34 percent in a survey said lawyers have nothing to offer society. Britton said the solution is for lawyers to “get rid of UPL” and partner with experts in other fields.

“As lawyers, we contribute to society, but it’s not about us; it’s about the legal consumer,” he said. “We need to understand what they need and innovate for them.”

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