The consumer watchdog for the legal industry, the Legal Services Consumer Panel, is to lead new research into the use of do it yourself online divorce offerings. It wants to look at both the risks and the challenges facing the legal firm given the increasing numbers of people logging on to do their legal work over the internet.
A few legal firms [and other non-lawyers] currently offer a download service for basic legal documents as part of their basic service, but new kids on the block such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer do nothing but create legal documents online for both individuals and business customers. It’s not completely new model, of course. You have been able to buy a blank will form from WH Smiths for just a few quid for decades now – but thankfully few people have been daft enough to take up that particular offer.
Along with the Legal Services Board, the consumer panel are to undertake new research into the online legal market and will speak to customers who have used online services to ask them to evaluate their experience. The report is expected to be out in the summer.
Many businesses and individuals still get legal advice in a traditional way, but online legal businesses are quickly starting to win a larger share of the market.
The consumer panel stressed that they understood why many people prefer to access divorce services online they are cheaper, quicker, more convenient and there is more choice. However, they also point out that there are some significant potential risks.
In response, the chairman of a leading online legal document company said that traditional law firms should be looking at the way they use online technology. Richard Cohen, who has in the past worked with Admiral Insurance and the AA, told an industry conference that he believed that many in the legal profession felt “threatened” by technological advances. He may be right. However technology doesn’t frighten us here at Bonallack and Bishop – we are convinced that technology will play an increasing role in the future production of legal documents – and that’s a good thing for consumers, provided, and this is a big proviso, that clients are getting the right advice they need. Just being provided with a blank form and being to get on with it yourself is certainly not the answer. It is being seen to see what the legal services consumer panel, and how the interests of consumers of legal services will be protected in the digital age.
However, while some areas of law will be increasingly driven by technology – divorce and family law may well buck the trend. Relationship breakdown involves often highly complex issues, not to mention strong emotions. For the foreseeable future, we think that family mediation will continue to form the best way forward for many separating couples.
Call our specialist Family Mediation and Collaborative Law Divorce Solicitors today
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