The best of both worlds ?

There has been much talk about the threat to traditional solicitor practices from so-called “tesco law” and this is understandable given the size, power, business and marketing expertise of big businesses, whether in the retail or perhaps insurance sectors.

However, is there in fact a bigger threat which comes from the failure, thus far, of many solicitors to fully embrace technology and to accept that many clients, particularly individuals, small businesses or business start ups, simply don’t have the budget to pay hourly fees or don’t perceive they are getting value.

We have had this discussion many times with generally forward thinking firms, many of whom say it is too risky for clients and them to rely on templated contracts or agreements, and, to quote one, “there is no such thing as standard shareholder agreement”. We have some sympathy with lawyers ion that, unbeknown to clients, lawyers are to a degree sometimes hamstrung by concerns about professional duties and extent of the retainer arrangement – whether they could be sued for allowing a client to use a template and simply helping them to adapt it, rather than going through a fuller process.

Like it or not, give a client with a very limited budget the option of using an interactive legal document service, such as that provided by Mylawyer, together with the option of having it reviewed by a lawyer for a set fixed fee and time limit, if this comes out at perhaps 1/3 of the cost then many clients are going to go that route.

Not all legal matters are inherently complex and this is another reason why interactive documents, prepared by lawyers, are almost certain to take off, especially if they offer clear guidance and options regarding important clauses as part of the process. Some examples of documents clients can understand, with the right tools, are wills, probate forms and perhaps divorce documents.

As things stand, companies like Epoq, who are behind Mylawyer, are happy to partner with law firms so that the law firm gets the benefit if the customer chooses further review by a lawyer. It is perfectly conceivable that they may at some stage take this function in-house if more lawyers are not receptive to the cold reality that this is the future for many legal services, not all, but many.

What do you think ?

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