With all the focus on the Legal Services Act – the so called Tesco’s Law – which comes into force in October, little attention has been given to another potential innovation in the sector launched in the US recently and set to come to the UK shortly.
The snappily titled Rocket Lawyer, from the venture capital arm of Google, no less, is an “online legal document assembly service” aimed at allowing those involved in certain types of cases, including divorce, to access and prepare their own documents.
The innovation is getting a mixed response with some suggesting it will take away valuable drafting fees from family lawyers, while others think it will just take on some of the more menial tasks, leaving family lawyers to get on with offering guidance and advice.
We have a while yet to debate it as it is suggested it will not be here until late next year at the earliest. However, I think it could be great for people who:
- are no longer entitled to Legal Aid but who feel they cannot afford legal advice
- people who want to do a lot of the paperwork themselves
- people who just like to feel that they have a real part to play in the process.
In many ways, we could do with something like this now, with the proposed Legal Aid changes and the generally tight economic conditions prompting more people to look at how they can do more things themselves to reduce costs. Divorce is not exempt from that.
If the advice on Rocket Lawyer’s site is correct, then it appears it will play a positive role in helping people. However, a glaring problem I can see is that it takes an experienced family lawyer to know if the advice is right, especially as every marriage and every divorce case is different. I hope it will include some basic guidelines for people to help them understand that the word “divorce” does not include sorting out house, finances and children’s arrangements.
All in all, anything that makes divorce easier for our clients is welcomed by me. But, good luck! With the present state of the court system, the no doubt well-set-up and quick Google system could grind to a halt as soon as the papers hit the court system. That’s a problem we struggle with daily.