Legal Technology - The Future of Legal Services
Legal technology services must operate in a multi-disciplinary and multi-functional environment in order to become more accessible.
In the first of a series of podcasts from the Legal Services Board (LSB) looking at legal technology and regulation around the world, Alison Hook, a leading international legal consultant, suggested the UK market was lagging behind some other jurisdictions in consumer law.
She has drawn attention to the take-up of technology in Europe and the US, highlighting services used there which deal with a “consumer problem” such as wanting a refund on a delayed flight. She explains that many individuals don’t initially think they need a lawyer, and “there is real potential…to see the market develop in such a way that consumers can access services which don’t take the legal bit in isolation from other needs they might have.”
Their problems might involve “a bit of financial services, a bit of therapy [and maybe] some medical help”, therefore, legal services must operate in a multi-disciplinary and multi-functional environment in order to become more accessible.
Ms Hook expressed that in some areas, legal tech was “becoming much more innovative” and she could see this being extended “given the right conditions”.
In the UK, apps such as ‘LegalDefence’ have been transforming the way customers can access legal services. This particular app which offers users the full range of consumer legal advice and support for up to £24 a month is being rolled out after a pilot saw 70% of users renew their subscription.
Users of the app have access to paralegals at Slater & Gordon’s legal advice team in Manchester, which resolves 70% of cases with just legal advice or an initial letter; the other 30% of cases are escalated for more detailed advice, for which users receive a 25% discount on S&G’s “standard billing rate”.
The most common areas of law during the pilot were conveyancing, wills, employment and neighbour disputes. A new feature allows members to send a photo of a letter about a motoring offence through the app for advice on what to do.
In the event of a dispute, S&G writes an initial letter or makes a call on the member’s behalf to try and resolve it, before moving onto a retainer.
Members can also access a wide range of legal documents to personalise and download, while there is a chatbot available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to deal with common problems.
Research commissioned by LegalDefence last year showed that nearly seven people in 10 had recently experienced a situation that could require legal support, but less than half of them actually took legal advice. In addition, 75% said they would consider a solicitor if the service was affordable.
As Mike Roberts, managing director of LegalShield said, “people must realise that law isn’t just there for the rich or situations where they normally need it, but that law happens in everyday life.”
In an effort to continue the development of cutting edge technology in the legal sector, Venture Capitalists have launched a fund aimed at lawtech start-ups.
The fund is currently active and kicked off its portfolio by backing Lexchain, an immigration automation tool. Nicola Stott, chief executive of the fund, has said that aside from capital, leadership and sector expertise would be offered to the start-ups.