St. John's School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series
This paper is a wake-up call for the legal profession: Heed the justice changes that are upon us or risk extinction. Online dispute resolution (hereinafter ODR) is currently being incorporated into U.S and international court systems, re-shaping and re-defining justice as we know it today. Courts and clients, two stakeholders in our justice system, are increasingly receptive to ODR as a viable option to help provide and access justice efficiently and affordably. The legal profession, the third stakeholder in our justice system, however, has been slower to react. As ODR plays an increasingly prominent role in the court system, it will eliminate some of the justice roles currently reserved for lawyers, diminish others, and create new areas of practice. We highlight ODR innovations already in the justice system and project the paths of ODR’s likely expansion. This paper alerts the legal profession and legal education community to take heed of these developments and become active contributors in shaping these justice innovations.
Viewing ODR’s entry into the court as an evolution of the justice system, we identify six adaptive skills that will redefine “thinking like a lawyer” and help the legal profession avoid extinction and remain relevant. Some of these are currently marginally addressed in the law school curriculum, others are entirely absent. Law schools, the primary disseminators of legal education, must re align their curriculum with the skills that practice-competent lawyers require to succeed in the ODR-infused justice system.