Legaltech has yet to reach its apogee

Pip Wilson, CEO and Cofounder of amicable, explains why legaltech and innovation in the legal space is a safe place for long term investment.

COVID-19 has propelled the world online, with UK internet use more than doubling in 2020. And the legal sector is no exception to this. The stay-at-home order catalysed the switch from traditional law firms to online alternatives, with consumers looking for solutions, not willing to wait for the indefinite stretch until restrictions lifted. Combine this with extended time at home, financial uncertainty, home-schooling and pandemic anxiety; the result is an increase in couples deciding to end their relationship and turning to technology to divorce online, using services such as amicable.

The ONS recently revealed an increase in divorce petitions being filed, and in the same period, amicable saw divorce enquiries spike 73% year on year. With legal technology becoming more sophisticated and trusted and the social norms around divorce evolving, the digital route has become an obvious option for many, as it offers a streamlined and cost-effective and convenient alternative.

Bridging a gap that traditional solicitor approaches cannot, legaltech’s ability to live online parallels today’s world, mimicking banking, meetings, and retail. Even before the pandemic, the research found that 83% of current and future consumers prefer to interact with law firms online, with financial impact cited as the main reason. Adopting legal tech is already well underway to becoming the norm; in just two and a half years, amicable’s customer base has grown by 400%, showing a clear appetite for the digital option of a traditional service. Additionally, there has been a tenfold increase in legal startups over the last five years, with continued disruption in the sector.

Digitalising divorce eases the hefty financial pressure that can come with separating. The traditional legal process of divorce averages £8,000 per person for divorce and financial settlement and can reach £40,000 per person if the couple goes to court. Technology has allowed digital services to reduce the cost to the customer and time spent on administrative tasks through automation, providing customers with fixed fees.

In the context of separating, the digital approach can fulfil a particularly useful function of mitigating conflict experienced in person. Divorce is a deeply emotional process, and the digital model shows that by harnessing the best of both worlds, technology and psychology can work in partnership with one another to simplify and take the emotional and financial strain out of difficult life moments, like divorce.

Successful legal technology puts people at the heart of the process, not the legal system. Truly consumer-driven technology is disruptive because it throws out the rule book; it doesn’t inherit processes or ideas simply because ‘that’s how it’s always been done.’ Instead, it looks at human needs and creates a solution that makes sense for people who need it right now.

The key to providing technology that improves people’s lives is to continuously develop a deep understanding of customers’ wants and needs and be agile and innovative enough to respond quickly. For example, amicable has just launched a co-parenting app to help with the transition from parents to co-parents based on feedback from our customers.

The judiciary is also catching up and redefining how divorce and separation are dealt with in England and Wales, with No-Fault Divorce legislation set to effect in April 2022, the biggest divorce law reform in over 50 years. Working closely with the government and other key players in the legal world is also crucial in changing society’s approach to divorce and separation. Providing data and research can help ensure that couples do not fall victim to out of date laws and processes that can incur devastating effects on people’s lives.

Disrupting an industry does not happen overnight, and consumers require time to understand and adopt new processes, especially with significant life events such as divorce. Digital has been both responding to and driving a changing mentality around divorce, which puts human outcomes above bureaucratic processes without compromising the service’s legitimacy or quality. Those early adopters who engaged with our digital offering from launch in 2015 could be seen to be taking a leap of faith. But we see them as pioneers and instrumental in pushing the boundaries that legaltech can offer. Alongside consumer faith, innovation, and a continued drive to digital, legaltech is well on its way to complete disruption of the sector, and we truly feel that we are in the driving seat.

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Luke Conrad

Technology & Marketing Enthusiast

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