Courts Disrupted

A new Resource Bulletin by the Joint Technology Committee (JTC): “The concept of disruptive innovation made its debut more than 20 years ago in a Harvard Business Review article. Researchers Clayton M. Christensen and Joseph L. Bower observed that established organizations may invest in retaining current customers but often fail to make the technological investments that future customers will expect. That opens the way for low-cost competitive alternatives to enter the marketplace, addressing the needs of unserved and under-served populations. Lower-cost alternatives over time can be enhanced, gain acceptance in well-served populations, and sometimes ultimately displace traditional products or services. This should be a cautionary tale for court managers. What would happen if the people took their business elsewhere? Is that even possible? What would be the implications to both the public and the courts? Should court leaders concern themselves with this possibility?

While disruptive innovation theory is both revered and reviled, it provides a perspective that can help court managers anticipate and respond to significant change. Like large businesses with proprietary offerings, courts have a unique customer base. Until recently, those customers had no other option than to accept whatever level of service the courts would provide and at whatever cost, or simply choose not to address their legal needs. Innovations such as non-JD legal service providers, online dispute resolution (ODR), and unbundled legal services are circumventing some traditional court processes, providing more timely and cost-effective outcomes. While there is no consensus in the court community on the potential impact to courts (whether they are in danger of “going out of business”), there are compelling reasons for court managers to be aware of and leverage the concept of disruptive innovation.

As technology dramatically changes the way routine transactions are handled in other industries, courts can also embrace innovation as one way to enhance the public’s experience. Doing so may help courts “disrupt” themselves, making justice available to a wider audience at a lower cost while preserving fairness, neutrality, and transparency in the judicial process….(More).”