BGH gives Wolters Kluwer right

WIf you need a rental or purchase agreement on the fly, you no longer have to go to the lawyer you trust. Internet offers such as the legal document generator Smartlaw, which is backed by the Wolters Kluwer publishing group, help companies and private individuals and are cheaper than lawyers’ fees. The success and increased competition of such legal service providers on the internet (“Legal Tech”) are causing displeasure among licensed lawyers – the Hanseatic Bar Association and Wolters Kluwer have been in conflict with each other for years.

Smartlaw was developed with the help of lawyers. The portal is neither a law firm nor is an employee licensed as a lawyer. The Bar Association considers this problematic and accuses Smartlaw of improperly providing legal services with the offer. On Thursday the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) decided that the operators of Smartlaw do not need a lawyer license. The automated creation of a draft contract with the help of a digital legal document generator does not constitute an unfair act. The first civil senate thus invalidated the allegation of a violation of the Legal Services Act (RDG). The software is programmed for the most typical constellations of facts, for which “standardized contractual clauses” have been developed in anticipation of the given answers. According to the federal judges, individual submissions are not taken into account: “The user does not expect a legal review of his specific case.”

The Hanseatic Bar Association sees it with concern that the protection of the RDG against unqualified legal services is running out. “Corresponding offers from large legal specialist publishers may be suitable for satisfying the needs of consumers and companies in individual cases and saving them having to go to a lawyer. However, this does not guarantee protection against unqualified offers, in particular dubious providers who are not subject to supervision. ”

On the other hand, Wolters Kluwer sees himself confirmed by the judgment. “Software programmed for many standard cases cannot be legal advice in the sense of the law and cannot replace it – at least as long as it is based, like Smartlaw, only on an algorithm that processes predefined decision trees, and not on artificial intelligence,” says Kristina Schleß, die in Europe jointly responsible for the legal department of Wolters Kluwer. Philipp Plog from the Legal Tech Association Germany wrote on LinkedIn about a far-reaching decision to “open up the legal market”. In contrast to earlier BGH rulings such as the law on legal tech debt collection and the ruling on mass actions in the assignment model, this is not about enforcing claims, but “in principle any kind of legal advice,” explained Plog.


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