UK Online Divorce Advice Under the Spotlight

Do It Yourself online divorce documents are to come under scrutiny in new research recently announced by the Legal Services Consumer Panel. Th UK legal consumer watchdog is looking into the potential problems and risks of more people turning to the internet for their legal advice and assistance when it comes to getting divorced.

Some law firms now allow clients to download basic documents as part of their standard service. US legal firms which are starting to make an impact on the UK market such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer have created an entire business model around creating a legal document download service for businesses and private individuals.

Both the Legal Services Board and the Consumer Panel are working on the research, and hope to interview clients who have accessed online legal advice about the quality of service which they received. The report is expected to be released in the summer of 2014.

The vast majority of clients still prefer to meet and discuss issues face-to-face with their divorce lawyer in the traditional way, but the online legal market is beginning to attract more and more business. A spokesperson for the Legal Services Consumer Panel said that they understood the obvious appeal of online advice in divorce cases in terms of choice, speed, convenience and cost, but also felt that there were “potential risks” in doing more business online.

Richard Cohen, head of an online legal document company, responded by saying that traditional firms were lagging behind in their use of technology. Mr Cohen, who has enjoyed success in businesses such as Admiral and the AA, and speaking at a recent conference, said that he felt many solicitors were “threatened” by new developments in IT.

Our view – while most of our clients are still prefer the traditional face-to-face approach of dealing with their lawyer,, we regularly deal with family law clients by email, phone and Skype video only. This is particularly the case when clients are currently living abroad, or in the case of the military [and we have very many military clients], are posted or deployed abroad for a period. However, there’s a huge difference between having your own solicitor to advise you, even if you don’t meet them face-to-face, and just relying on downloading online forms. Dealing with a divorce solicitor online is fine – but there are so many traps for the unwary if you try to manage your own divorce using downloaded documents – that something you really should think very carefully about for going ahead. Getting it wrong could cost you a fortune.

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