High Wycombe: Consumers favour ‘lawbot’ robotised help over a real lawyer

New research into the use of digital technology in the UK legal sector has revealed that seven out of 10 consumers would choose a ‘lawbot’ – a customer facing, automated online system – to handle their legal affairs over a human lawyer because it’s cheaper, faster and simpler. 19% said it’s more convenient and more than half (56%) are even prepared to pay more for such a service if it means a faster resolution.

The UK study on 1,000 consumers and 500 law firms, by Olive Communications, a managed cloud communications provider based in High Wycombe, and working with law firms found that one in three (34%) consumers would also like their solicitors to offer digital services such as video conferencing, chat and instant messaging (IM), when liaising with their lawyers. Yet, 66% of consumers said such services have never been made available.

UK firms fear they are stuck in a tech time warp

From a law firm perspective, over half (66%) of UK law firms worry that failure to keep up with digital advances will affect productivity, billable time and client response rates, with SMEs (61%) slightly less concerned than larger law firms (71%). Half of all law firms (49%) also worry about falling behind the competition.

Martin Flick, CEO at Olive, commented: “Today’s busy, always on and mobile first consumer wants to buy goods and services, and communicate with sellers whenever, wherever and however they choose. Increasingly this is through digital interaction. When it comes to their lawyer or solicitor, they want to engage in the same way, without the frustration of having to wait days for paper documents to arrive in the post or for an email to come through with the answer to a question that could be easily resolved with an Instant Message or automated response. Consumers want more control over their legal affairs with sometimes, little or no human intervention, and with the speed, efficiency and security that multiple channel web-based communications offers.”

Earlier this year, the Government announced a £1 billion investment programme to digitise the court service to make it quicker simpler, and easier. An automated financial disputes claim for disputes up to £10,000, a digital divorce applications service and, an online system for appealing tax bills have been among the Government’s recent court reforms.

Digital legal services most in demand

And it would seem that consumers are keen to embrace these new online court services. Insurance claims (46%), financial disputes (23%) and tax appeals (23%) were the three legal services that consumers most wanted to be digitalised according to Olive’s findings. 19% would also like access to a purely online, automated residential property and conveyancing legal service with no intervention from a human lawyer, whilst 14% would happily use a ‘lawbot’ to make a divorce application. 11% are even happy to use an online automated system to make an unfair dismissal claim against their ex-employer.

Savings of up to £200,000 a year

Olive’s study found that the benefits of installing the latest digital communication systems from web conferencing to cloud file sharing systems have been significant for these law firms. 15% claim it improves talent retention, 34% have increased billable time, and 73% have seen improvements in people efficiency, productivity and business agility, leading to a majority (47%) boosting their bottom line by between £20,000 and £200,000 a year.