Rats! Why didn’t I think of that?

I’m miffed. There is a pioneering new online service out there called Intelligent Divorce and I think its probably a stroke of genius.

Intelligent Divorce is an online service for divorcing couples (or for one half of a divorcing couple) which enables them to access high quality advice from a specialist family barrister at a reasonable price, without paying solicitors rates for the grunt work of gathering information. It is the brainchild of one solicitor (Mahie Abey) and one barrister (James Roberts at 1 KBW) and although in some respects it is very much a new way of delivering legal services, beneath the facade it is structured the good old fashioned way using technology to streamline and route information via solicitor and then on to a barrister – this is not a direct access project. This leads to a streamlined front end experience but an exquisitely complex set of T&Cs.

The information on the site is well thought through and clearly explained for non-lawyers. There is a very useful Guide which is worth reading even if you don’t ultimately use the service. The functionality on the site is excellent – I trialled account creation, inputting my information (don’t tell my husband) and testing out how it worked – it was very intuitive and well designed. Stage by stage you input your personal and financial information and circumstances which is collated by Intelligent Divorce before being passed on to the lawyers for advice. You pay a fixed fee, which is clearly explained and in return you get an advice from counsel for what seems like a very competitive rate.

Users can choose whether to go solo, providing all the information themselves and obtaining an advice for their own purposes, or working in tandem with the other spouse to obtain an impartial advice that both can use to work out how to settle their arrangements. 

As all lawyers know it is a prerequisite of all legal sector software that it must be (barely) functional, utterly unintuitive and visually dated (grey clunky boxes). Congratulations to Intelligent Divorce for bucking this trend. It is beautifully straightforward and I could find no glitches (if I had found any I would have been compelled to point them out in the same way that one is compelled to point out spelling errors).

So, in summary:

For couples divorcing – Intelligent Divorce is well worth consideration. It is a non-confrontational way for both of you to get some good advice for a very reasonable price. I would be very happy to get advice from counsel at 1 KBW for about £800 all in. And if you use the couples service they will draft your consent order for you. If you are able to use an online divorce service to sort out your divorce itself you could potentially sort out the whole chabang for under £2000. £2000 is a lot of money when you have none, but believe me this is cheap. Of course, if you use ID and don’t resolve things by agreement you may end up having to go through the court process anyway, but if you start the process well informed and with all your financial information to hand it would not be money wasted. (Cheeky plug – of course, if you do need to go to court you could always buy my book).

For lawyers – kick yourselves. Hard. Who needs ABS or direct access? This is just good lawyering, good client care and good business sense. Go and visit this website and ponder your own business development strategy. The future is upon us – there will be many many new business models, projects and innovations springing up all over the place and no doubt many will fail. My guess would be that this one will be successful – look carefully at this site and learn. It has been a thoroughly thought through project, and a vast amount of effort and planning has gone into it. Are you ready to compete?

 

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14 thoughts on “Rats! Why didn’t I think of that?

  1. Hi

    I hope you don’t mind me writing a comment on this post. Ordinarily I kind of glide past many blog posts and avoid a lot of noise, but every now and again something catches my eye. IF i had a therapist he would say “Jon, lawyer writing about tech…let it go.”

    Dilemma. You are writing here about a world that I am very familiar with, I’ll come on to that, but what struck me here was your enthusisam for this online service. Intelligent Divorce is pretty tame compared to other services that are being used and other things we are developing.

    I have to declare an interest. I am involved in legal online in a fairly major way via my company Epoq. We are building stuff for brands, direct to consumer, law firms from magic circle to solo, embedded in websites ,utilised in-house…I am not saying this to show off more to give you some idea as to my credentials. We are heavily involved and embedded. To be blunt we are at the centre of the online legal space and more than happy to share with anyone who wants to enjoy the ride with us…because we think this is about to become a very exciting ride for lawyers. In fact lawyers are helping us shape a lot of our development.

    Back on piste…I think this is one of the first posts I have seen that has woken up to the fact that services will be delivered in different ways. Not to replace but to add. ABS isn’t going to change that momentum, economics and 21st century reality are driving that, as you say….kick yourselves. Hard. Who needs ABS or direct access? Yup, smart lawyers but you need to connect up with smart suppliers and kick our tyres so we can explain and you can decide.

    In my experience, (and we chat/share with a lot of lawyers), it is all about understanding a) what is (really) happening, b) what is about to (really) happen c) what could happen if you don’t (really) adapt. I doubt any lawyer would not explain this for a client. I do the same for lawyers.

    Lawyers on the one hand consume technology on a huge scale yet still seem to deny it’s capability in their day to day. There is a sense that it will eliminate lawyers. Nope. It exists to eliminate inefficiency which is not the same thing. Fear could drive this resistance. There is one sure way to conquer fear. Knowledge.

    What will lawyers say (and this is a generous assumption) when clients call and say “yeah but lawyer x is transacting with me via the web.” You may say “ah but you get to see me” and the client says “I get to see my lawyer for the important stuff, he sends me the standard documents for me to complete via the web as needed, it saves me loads of time.”

    Compound that by the fact that that lawyer will be charging the same as you but doing it in less billable time = more profit.

    The trick of technology, proven throughout history, is to deliver the same, better experience for less. Legal services will not be immune to this. Lawyers can make this happen sooner or later, but they can’t stop it happening. The longer they leave it then the bigger they leave their market open for other new entrants who will leverage brand and big marketing budgets.

    I do accept that lawyers have been let down by legal IT, but that was before the innovation acceleration that the internet now delivers.

    I don’t accept that the future will be black or white, online v real time, face to face v virtual. I think it will be a blend of many things; the harnessing of the traditional value with the efficiencies of modern delivery. I think it will be shaped by smart lawyers who utilise the right tools that matches their numerous needs.

    It will cease to be one size fits all.

    Wow, long post…sorry if I have ranted a bit…hazards of giving a toss I guess. If you ever want to explore where tech is going for lawyers, informally then I am more than happy to share.

    Jon

  2. Ha, thanks Lucy. Mind you typing a comment on an iPad is not recommended when you look back and review…meh.

    I did want to add a couple of things on reflection though.

    Firstly, I didn’t want to come over as dis-ing ID. I applaud the innovation. There is going to be way more stuff coming, secure online collaboration with a document between lawyer and client, in line editing, integration of documentation, forms etc more seamlessly into case management etc. You know, all that seamless intuitive way that say Amazon operates. It is being designed and built for legal as we speak/type. But it will also allow plenty of room for the high value face to face, human to human intellectual stuff…the stuff clients actually pay you for. And this tech is going to free up the lawyers time so they can do more of the intellectual stuff.

    Lawyers are going to need torch bearers because only a fool lets themselves be lead through the dark (noise) by someone who doesn’t know the way out and how to get there. Trust is going to be key. When trust is established we (the suppliers of this stuff) can say “you need to let us steer this now, we are the experts, we understand what you want to achieve, we are not here to let you down etc”

    Finally, what fascinates me far more than technology, (that has now been cracked) is this whole culture resistance thing. I can see the argument, how do you tell a room full of millionaires that they are wrong. But things can happen pretty quick, suddenly and dramatically.

    My analogy is like this…

    You are on on your hols, say on the Med. You look out of your hotel bedroom window, it’s early. Noone about, sun loungers are free, it all looks calm.

    You go back for a lie in and ponder on the relaxing day ahead. An hour later you go back to the balcony. All the loungers are now taken. You never heard that happen.

    On the Med you have still got tomorrow.

    Jon

  3. This idea seems as if it should have already been done, it’s that good. This really would enable the divorcing couple to settle their differences without the heavy financial cost and emotional stress.
    Katie Leaver, London Loves Jobs

  4. The internet is, indeed, set to revolutionize the way that those in the legal profession deliver their services. We and other companies have already created models that allow us to quickly and efficiently process divorces, other legal institutions now need to cotton on and catch up.

  5. Oooh can I add again?

    If you (lawyers) do not innovate, show new ways of engaging that fit in to the way consumers (you and me) operate then you will quickly be seen to be irrelevant(ish).

    Others will come in and it will matter zero what lawyers think (I can imagine the LinkedIn comment section now), because the solution that the consumer will want will be there.

    Its like VHS v Betamax all over again. Betamax was the superior better quality format. Betamax lost. VHS got to market better whilst Betamax fannied about navel gazing.

    Lawyers will still be needed but many will just be at the mercy of major brands.

    My shout is this…do not fail your profession, start planning and start educating your market.

    Jon

  6. Hi Lucy, As a solicitor in a traditional office based job i know that lots of people use these services thinking they are saving money and then just get stuck half way through and then spend more money sorting out the problems. For example, people often don’t fill in the required information correctly, or partially fill it in thinking they’ll “come back to it later”. If they leave the inputted information half complete any “answer” or Solution will be wrong. In one case, this resulted in the paries getting a dismissal consent order when there were 2 jointly owned properties and 2 valuable pensions!!

    • Hi Mena,
      I think it’s a balance isn’t it. I think as far as they are able this particular website flag up how the thing works and so mistakes should be minimised but ultimately it’s the client’s responsibility to carefully and completely enter the data. I understand that there is a system in place for basic checks on the information to be carried out to flag up obvious omissions or errors. Perhaps someone from Intelligent Divorce will comment?
      Lucy

  7. First of all thank you Lucy for the review.

    I thought I would reply to Mena’s posting. Like her I am a practising solicitor and of course I agree that people do find it difficult to complete disclosure, especially Form E which is not the most user friendly of forms at the best of times. I also agree that comprehensive disclosure is absolutely necessary before meaningful advice can be provided. The part of the Intelligent Divorce site that deals with disclosure has very much been created with those points in mind.

    Firstly the information gathering is as user friendly as possible and designed so that the customer can come back to it as often as they like with reminders of what they have yet to complete on their home page. When using our solo service (which is an individual seeking a barrister’s opinion) the customer cannot submit the information to us until they have completed all the necessary sections.

    However what James Roberts and I think is the clever bit of the information gathering side of the site is within our co-operative service (where a separating couple each uses the site). Each party sets out their assets. The other then has the tools to test whether they are happy with the assets either by using what we call “dig deeper” questions on the site or by messaging their own questions to the other. In the “dig deeper” questions we have created asset specific questions similar to those in a questionnaire whose purpose is to elicit the standard sort of verification information and documents that lawyers ask for. The parties using the co-operative service cannot submit their information to us until they have completed all the necessary sections on the site and agreed the information supplied by their ex-partner. The intention is that before any information is sent to 1KBW we have a schedule of assets that the parties have agreed.

    Abey

  8. Hi all, me again, i also wanted to ask how the advice will be tailored toward the area in which the parties live or is it intended that all petitions are issued in the PRFD? In my work as a speaker on Matrimonial finance with CLT, i present courses across the country. The way the Judges in Sheffield deal with matrimonial finance is different to Cardiff, Cambridge, Exeter and so on. How do you advise for regional differences? Local solicitors and barristers know what goes on in their local area, what consent orders are never going to make it past the Judge, whether a PP’s order should have a s28(1A) bar etc etc. This local knowledge is invaluable. Just wondering.
    Mena

    • That is a good point. We all know that what happens in London is not replicated up and down the country and some local courts have their own *cough* special approach.

  9. I completely agree that finances are not dealt with consistently across the country which I think is a bit of a disgrace really – but that is another story. We deal with that by issuing everything in my local court which is Eastbourne and if things get too busy in the PRFD.

    Abey

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