Archive for the ‘legal services’ Category

Increasingly in recent years individuals have been turning to the internet in search of legal advice. Whereas in the past the lawyer was primarily the first port of call for most people when inquiring about a legal matter, whereby it was not unusual for people to have a “personal or family” lawyer upon which they could rely when needing legal advice, nowadays individuals don’t tend to have the same relationships with a lawyer as you would have with your GP, for example, whereby, whenever in doubt, you can turn to for advice at no cost.

Many places on the internet have been offering legal advice in the last few years and this has led to attempts to curb the availability of this content. The internet has been of great help to lawyers in advertising their services, but has also prevented them from receiving potential clients, who manage to find what they need online. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2010-12, which has cut funding for legal advice and made the rules of giving legal advice stricter, has ever increased the resorting to the internet to find a legal solution.

Rather than a lawyer giving advice and answers to questions and specific problems, lawyers are becoming, increasingly, sources for information which provide general legal advice which individuals then interpret themselves. People now often create their own legal documents based on the templates that are provided by the internet. There is also such a thing called document assembly whereby, via an interface, users answer various questions which are then incorporated into the templates. Rocket Lawyer, an American project, is one of the more advanced examples of these and is planning to launch in the UK this year.

Traffic fines is an area of the law where many look to the internet for advice, and there is much information available for contesting them. On sites like “Ticketfighter”, you can speak to a solicitor online and be given quick answers. Many people have been successful in contesting such fines which can often end up in tribunals. This area of the law clearly demonstrates the growing participation that people are having with the law.

Nowadays, the increased commercialization of the law is being demonstrated by the growth in Alternative Business Structures (or ABSs) offering legal services alongside businesses such as supermarkets. Also becoming progressively more common is a brand of firms known as Quality Solicitors, who pride themselves on taking a revolutionary approach towards the law by providing their clients with a customer service and with an option to eventually meet a lawyer in person, all at a very reasonable cost.

Other than the financial implications that having to seek a solicitor implies, there is also a practical reasoning behind this phenomenon. People must feel that for certain problems, they are better off initially pursuing a resolution themselves, or that it is not worth seeking a professional for help.

Self-service wills have also been around for sometime such as those Kay Testler and more recently of Lawpack, which can be purchased at WH Smith and have been found to be quite useful. However, using a solicitor may save money in the end, although the initial expense may be off putting, given the potential for a badly drafted will to bequeath an estate to a wholly unintended beneficiary.

It should also not be forgotten that solicitors are required by the Law Society to have professional indemnity insurance of a minimum of £2 million (and £3 million in the case of a limited liability partnership or LLP), so in the event the worst happens and your will bequeaths everything to your mother-in-law, you will always be able to seek recompense from your solicitor’s insurance policy. There is also much transactional work which only qualified lawyers are capable of doing.

This is all especially true for commercial law and many people are now representing themselves in employment tribunals for example. The government has tried to encourage resolutions to employment issues through ACAS but many unsatisfied employees have insisted on making a claim and go to the Employment Tribunal. One judge has said that he believes that the rise in “DIY lawyers” is making trials more heated and fears that it could lead to more violence.

Nevertheless representing oneself is becoming more and more common and is sure to be on the rise.  Lawyers will be undoubtedly trying to find ways of benefiting from this, and others hoping that there be greater restrictions on the advice which is available.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

This article reflects the current law and practice. It is general in nature, and does not purport in any way to be comprehensive or a substitute for specialist legal advice in individual circumstances.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog