Who’s Doing Your Legal Work? Robots, Unqualified People, or Foreigners?
At least in a small firm like ours, you can see all our staff on our website, everyone is listed on the letterhead, and you can even meet us if you drop into one of our offices!
What is becoming increasingly apparent over the last year or so, in speaking with larger firms, is just how much legal work is no longer done by lawyers! Sure, the legal work is still done ‘under supervision’ of a lawyer. But this seems difficult to swallow – that a lawyer then spends most of their time reviewing the work of non-lawyers instead of doing legal work themselves.
Robots are not yet very sophisticated, and primarily involve programmable software. But robots are certainly employed for data-entry in the legal industry. The prime function of software and robots in the legal industry is to pre-fill as many parameters from data-entered information into legal documents as possible.
Many of the online legal services involve the client filling in a certain amount of information into forms that then populate into legal documents. Our partner for our Online Will uses this form of technology to complete simple, online Wills. These are not reviewed by a lawyer.
For years, it has been the case that large firms have maximised their profits by charging legal rates for the work of their paralegals. The drafting of legal documents in larger firms are often done by unqualified staff – this is not the problem, because it would be overseen and checked by the lawyer and the client. The problem is when the paralegal’s time is charged at the same rate as someone qualified.
We have seen many outrageous legal bills from other firms, with high charge rates, but also with lots of hours put into seemingly administrative tasks. Our advice is to always get an itemised bill from your lawyer. If lots of time has been charged for administrative work, this can be questioned, along with excessive hours for drafting documents which should be done by unqualified people at a far lower rate (if any charge, because a lawyer’s hourly rate is worked out high to cover their support staff).
Finally, and most concerning, we have heard that some firms who have ‘scaled’ their businesses have sent their work overseas to developing countries. To keep up with demand, there are some firms who are employing Indian and/or South-East Asian lawyers to do legal work for the Australian jurisdiction. Lawyers charge far less in these countries, and in some ways it may be preferable to unqualified people doing the work, even if that qualified person is foreign and didn’t train under our laws … but this doesn’t sit well with us.
If you want to know exactly who’s doing the work on your file, and you want to be able to meet them and speak to them, and you want to know that your firm hires local people in its own communities, then use a firm like ours.