Waiting for the Steve Jobs of law

Cite this Article
Larry Ribstein, Waiting for the Steve Jobs of law, Truth on the Market (August 27, 2011), https://truthonthemarket.com/2011/08/27/waiting-for-the-steve-jobs-of-law/

Holman Jenkins today joins the many tributes to Steve Jobs:

From the beginning, he saw the human possibility in the extraordinarily complex hardware and software engineering of digital devices. The Macintosh should work in a way that’s intuitive, that doesn’t require an owner’s manual. And today you only need to survey the blogosphere or friends with toddlers to hear stories of 3-year-olds picking up an iPad and quickly sussing out what it’s for. * * * Mr. Jobs’s determination to make superb products was, one likes to think, an expression of love for the world, life and possibility.

Much as I have resisted many Apple products, I can’t argue with either the market or the iPhone.  As I fiddled yesterday with my new upgrade to the 4, I reflected that it reminded me of one of the inventions David Bowie brought to earth from outer space in the Man Who Fell to Earth.

Now compare a smartphone to law — the law that ordinary people and businesses confront when they try to do the most basic things, the law that handles the simplest disputes by multiplying them into second, third and fourth level disputes.  As Gillian Hadfield explained in her insightful article, The Price of Law, this is the law that the lawyer monopoly, which benefits from complexity, has forced onto our society.

Dismantling this monopoly could open the law to myriad inventors who could create technologies that make law accessible to ordinary people.  Bruce Kobayashi and I discuss some of these technologies and how current regulation hinders their creation in our Law’s Information Revolution.

Law is waiting for its Steve Jobs (or Bill Gates). When he or she arrives it could be a lot more important than the iPhone.

We’ll be discussing unbarring the doors to the future in our symposium next month.