The American Bar Association has published an article making the case that the legal profession was headed towards a stagnation even before the ‘Great Recession.’ This is due a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way legal services are provided. The premise of the article rests on statistics regarding legal services as a part of our GDP versus law jobs being available. The former has stayed the same whereas the latter has dropped. This indicates that legal services are still needed in these economic times, but consumers are finding alternative methods of getting those services. Additionally, the article points out that most people can not afford a lawyer (which is probably correct).
One section of the article discusses ‘e-law.’ E-law is finding resources online, namely templates and boilerplates, for legal documents such as contracts, wills, trusts, or even legal filings. I have had my reservations about e-law for awhile. My main contention is that boilerplates and templates often do not take into consideration the caselaw. For whatever reason, I find many contract templates that have clauses that are not upheld by courts or even have clauses that violate the law. One example of such a boilerplate is a ‘no-oral-modification’ clause. The clause essentially states that the contract can not be modified orally and that parties must, in writing, modify the terms. Well, this clause is not recognized in Illinois courts (as well as other jurisdictions). See Tadros v. Kuzmak, 277 Ill. App.3d 301, 312 (1st Dist. 1995). This mistake could lead to unnecessary litigation. I am a strong believer that that contracts should be tailored toward the business in question.
Technology and templates can only replace lawyers so much. This is why I advise that clients have an attorney review a contract. If clients really want to cut costs, then at least present an attorney with a draft contract that the attorney can review (as opposed to start from scratch). For the reasons stated above, be wary of template contracts and other legal forms. Saving a few bucks now might cost you dearly later.