Legal Service by Automated Legal Software and Its Legal Impacts

Julius Remmers - Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht

-- My dissertation in law for the Edinburgh Master of Laws in Innovation, Technology and the Law, "Legal service by automated legal software and its legal impacts, in particular under the German Act on Out-of-Court Legal Services", published on SSRN, deals with legal issues of automated legal software that is capable to perform legal services, especially under the German Act on Out-of-court Legal Services ("RDG"). This issue is up to date and still needs to be discussed in order to evaluate the balance of interests between high-quality legal services on the one hand and affordable legal services on the other hand.

My first chapter presents the types of legal software and of legal activities. It is well-known that on the internet there are more and more suppliers of legal services using automated legal software who do not act as lawyers or law firms but as legal tech companies, such as DoNotPay. According to my classification legal software programs can be subdivided into three main types, namely "Legal document drafting and review", "Legal chatbots" and "Legal research". The advantages of submitting an inquiry to an automated legal software instead of a lawyer mainly are to save money. At the end of the first chapter, automated legal services are interpreted under the EU anti-discrimination legislation (Gender Equality Directive, Goods and Services Directive, Race Equality Directive and Framework Directive). This examination has shown that the EU anti-discrimination legislation applies to legal services under certain requirements in light of Article 57 TFEU. Nevertheless, a case where legal software discriminates against a certain group of humans is difficult to imagine.

In the second chapter, legal services by legal software are examined under the German Act on Out-of-court Legal Services ("RDG") and compared to legal services by lawyers on the basis of advantages and disadvantages. The RDG is a good legal example of a national law on the permission of performing legal services due to its strict requirements. According to the RDG, generally only German lawyers are allowed to perform legal services. So there might be a problem with automated legal software performing legal services if there is no German lawyer "behind" this automated legal software. By focusing on the three types of legal software in this dissertation, there are the following conclusions:

  • Legal document drafting and review software performs legal services depending on how and where it is deployed. Especially the criteria "concrete affairs of others" and "individual case" according to sec 2(1) RDG only apply if such a software refers to any user or client.

  • The activities by legal chatbots might practically always be regarded as legal services due to their communication with users or clients.

  • The activity of legal research software might also be regarded as legal service owing to the application of individual facts of users or clients.

If a legal software performs legal services it might be admissible depending on the exceptions (either a lawyer has to vet the software or, for carrying out collection services, the company has to be registered).

Finally, an important question in practice is whether it is likely that lawyers will be replaced by legal software anytime. According to my point of view an entire replacement of lawyers by legal software is very unlikely in the coming decades because it takes a long time until legal software will be capable to perform those legal tasks that demand human intellect, emotions and other human abilities (e.g. considering the reactions of clients, their backgrounds, their state of mind etc.). Automated legal software covers other kinds of tasks. In the case where legal software supports lawyers, there is a kind of "symbiosis" between lawyers and legal software with the result that lawyers could concentrate more on complex and complicated tasks. The legal research software ROSS is regarded as a good example for this symbiosis: "It is a supplemental tool to help them move faster, learn faster and continually improve". Therefore, legal software must be considered as legal service provider besides lawyers and as support for lawyers, rather than as a replacement.

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