A View from Christopher Mims
Replacing Personal Injury Lawyers With the Web
Negotiating a settlement is expensive and difficult – which is why automating the process so that a fee can be agreed on in minutes is so appealing
You’ve been wronged. You know what to do next: You call 1-800-JUSTICE or whatever the number is, so you can get a lawyer on the line to fight for you against those villains at the insurance company.
Except this time around, you’re being offered a settlement via a site called Cybersettle. The company specializes in exactly one thing: facilitating “blind” bids between two parties to a legal dispute. You think your mashed finger is worth $20,000; maybe the city of New York agrees. But the only way to find out is to sit down and hash it out.
Cybersettle eliminates the need for everyone to comb their hair, put on a suit and head downtown. It also eliminates the need for you to hire a lawyer, if you’re comfortable with letting Cybersettle handle your case.
Law, with its enormous volume of interlocking arcana, seems prime territory for automation. Cybersettle says that it has already facilitated the settlement of over a quarter of a million claims for some of the largest insurance companies, corporations and municipalities in the country. It’s a trend that could see even less employment for lawyers used to helping their clients go through the motions on routine matters like settlements.
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.Subscribe today