The gig economy and the legal sector might sound like an odd pairing to most. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is fueling an increasingly active gig economy within the legal industry, says Sascha Mehlhase, vice-president of products and innovation for ABC Legal.
“We have been seeing a bunch of people coming in, wanting to become process servers and working with us because we have the technology and we allow them to be flexible,” he told IT Business Canada, adding the company has created 454 new gig roles since February 2020, significantly greater than previous year’s figures for this time of year.
ABC Legal operates in the gig industry for legal services in the U.S. It also offers international services in more than 70 countries. Its solutions help customers and end-users access legal services by vetting process services around the country that are licensed, experienced, trained, performing tasks such as process services, court filings, investigations and more.
Together with its subsidiary firm Docketly, which connects clients to attorneys outside of the jurisdiction to represent them in procedural hearings, business activity has jumped since February, and the current coronavirus crisis has been forcing a further change in the perceptions the legal industry holds toward flexible work, Mehlhase says. “This has become a trend in the industry, just in general. Other gig work, such as Uber and Lyft, has decreased and so people are trying to find new ways to be active in this environment and earn a living. On the other hand, this situation that we are in has high unemployment, and people are losing their jobs and having problems paying their bills.”
Docketly’s “Earn” and “Hire” options can be accessed from a browser or smartphone app, linking freelance attorneys with available hearings, and individuals and organizations with available attorneys in the area.
“More and more lawyers are working for themselves as solo practitioners. It’s undeniable that the practice of law has seen a great shift in the last decade and I believe it is a result of growing distrust of the corporate nature of large businesses in favour of growing trust and reliance in small businesses. The public understands that small law firms and solo practitioners have the capacity to do a lot more than what was possible in the past due to advances in technology. Especially during this time when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption of in-person social interactions, it is becoming more and more apparent that many of the things we do in the office, can be as easily done at home,” said Sukhman Singh Sandhu, founder of Sukh Law, an ON-based law firm that operates in the area of business law, real estate law and civil litigation, in an interview with IT Business Canada.
Talking about the adoption of technology in the Canadian legal sector, Sandhu says it has been adopted widely across the sector but the promise of artificial intelligence hasn’t been felt yet.
“Automation technology has been both welcomed and heavily adopted. Automation technology at this time is at its very basic. There is little to no “AI” as we are nowhere close to developing something that can understand the vast amount of law literature while also being adaptable to continuous changes in legislation and common law. The most common ‘automation technology’ is the use of software to fill out common fields and produce customized standard documents based on input. This is received well as it increases uniformity and reduces the margin for errors,” Sandhu said.
Cloud storage, cloud sharing, and the various other means of sharing information and documents is the future, he adds.
“This decreases physical and geographic barriers in selecting suitable collaboration. Each area of law also has their fair share of software which allows for template utilization and automation further enabling professionals to focus their energy on the more important things and also at the end of the day, spend less time on each file which in turns decreases billable time and increases affordability and access to legal services,” Sandhu explained.
But services like those provided by ABC Legal and other similar organizations in the legal industry are a win-win for both gig workers and those in the legal sector who practice litigation and require court filings and appearances.
“Just like Uber, for process services specifically, it decreases the barriers to entry and increases flexibility to make money on the side for gig workers while at the same increasing competition in the industry which at the end increases affordability and quality of service for legal sector customers,” he said. “However, for more complex work like court appearances, it may lead to a decrease in quality for clients due to a reduction in accountability and strength of the solicitor-client relationship.”