The title of this new book, "Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy" , seemed to echo 1960s-style activism and counter-culture. But according the the author, the "sharing economy" is a contemporary emerging phenomenon accompamied by a new type of legal practice that can support it.
As a result of a confluence of the economic crisis, environmental concerns, and the maturation of the social web, an entirely new generation of alternative economic relationships and businesses are developing.
According the the author "This new economy facilitates community ownership, localized production, sharing, cooperation, small scale enterprise, and the regeneration of economic and natural abundance..." Many of its grass root practices frequently fall outside of the traditional legal categories. Individual and community economic activity may not fit many existing legal concepts and practices.
The author points out three major areas where existing law may not be appropriate for many sharing economy activities. She says that laws didn't foresee collaborative relationships; or take account of varied motivations for activities and enterprises; nor foresee diverse forms of exchange.
This emerging economic sector will require legal guidance and transactional legal skills to organize its own structures and to navigate existing laws. However, the author states that advocacy, will also be needed to alter some of the traditional legal norms, to allow, these presently non-mainstream practices, to develop. Providing legal services to this sector will be challenging but can also provide opportunities for personal initiative and creativity.
The general orientation of practice in this emerging sector will be mostly collaborative rather than competitive and confrontational. Mediation and facilitation skills will be just as important as contending in a court room. The author identifies the nearest type of existing law practice as the Collaborative Law that has been primarily applied in divorce cases and in domestic relationship formation.
Areas recommended for law school to address the needs of this new area of practice, include : offering courses on how substantive law can apply to a sharing economy; provide practicum courses & clinics with skills training in communications, mediation, facilitation, document drafting.
Additionally, schools could also provide resources help these practitioners launch their own practices. Law practice in this area may take on the unconventional form of legal cooperatives and legal collectives. Fee arrangements will likely be diverse and adjusted to keep services available to the largely non-profit community organizations.
At present there are not any existing models on how law grads would develop the new skills needed for this novel work. Most law schools, even those with relevant clinical programs, do not have programs that directly address the skills need for this new type of practice.
In the mean time, the author, suggests that an apprenticeship model may be the best way to do this. But very few states even allow the possibility of practicing law outside of the attendance at recognized law schools. This may be one of the areas where changes to existing laws and regulations may be needed to open the doors for this new type of practice.
Drastic changes in the overall economy and the apparently permanent changes in the legal market place, have led to many unemployed and under-employed law school graduates with huge school debts. Perhaps, the development of the "Sharing Economy" with the attendant need for appropriate legal expertise, could provide new areas of practice for those law grads looking for socially-conscious, challenging and innovative ways of being a lawyer. Connecting this type of practice, to debt forgiveness programs, would also address the serious financial concerns of these law grads.