Solicitors Journal – Lawtech: the miracle solution to solving the legal needs of SMEs

The integrity, quality and accessibility of legal services are essential to the long-term success of businesses. Across all industries, from a humble small and medium-sized business (SME) to a global business, the use of legal services provides valuable strategic support throughout the lifecycle of an organization. business.

Access to affordable and reliable legal services is crucial for businesses if they are to thrive in a highly competitive business atmosphere. Any legal issue, if not handled properly, can disrupt a business’s performance and hinder its growth. At worst, it can cause immeasurable damage to reputation and finances if legal action is required due to breaches of the law.

However, despite the impact of legal issues facing small businesses, a surprising number of business owners face legal issues without the benefit of legal advice. To counter the issues facing SMEs and in response to the broader need for better access to legal services, I found myself a lawyer turned technology developer creating and launching a lawtech platform to challenge the traditional method. search for a lawyer and try to improve access to online legal services.

Since the launch of LawBid 2016, more than half of the SMEs we spoke to had faced a business legal problem on their own without engaging any professional legal aid to support them, as they believed they could handle the problem better by themselves. themselves, even without any legal training. .

The main reasons small businesses seek legal help are debt collection and dispute resolution, drafting routine legal documents, and reviewing contracts and other business documents. These are the three most important services covered by LawBid and for which we have seen an increase in demand, especially during the global pandemic.

The question of fees

Cost has always been a major barrier to accessing legal services for SMEs. This is the number one reason why nearly half of businesses, despite business owners citing legal issues as one of the biggest threats to their business, say they don’t ask for juridical help. Additionally, many SMEs do not know whether or not to involve lawyers and some do not recognize when they have a legal problem, hence the often adopted DIY law approach.

In reviewing 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) released a landmark report entitled ‘Legal Services Market Survey’ on the provision of legal services in England and Wales. He found that the legal services industry was not performing well enough for individual consumers and small businesses. The report identified that consumers lacked the information they needed to navigate the legal services industry and engage confidently with providers, while consumers struggled to make informed choices due to poor transparency. price, service and quality.

These concerns were echoed in a high-profile Law Society report the same year, titled “The Future of Legal Services”. The legal regulator highlighted the industry’s shortcomings in responding adequately to individuals and businesses. Both reports reinforced my decision at the time to develop and market LawBid as there was a clear and urgent need to improve access to legal services.

The CMA issued an interim review in December 2020, which found that despite slight progress – such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) implementing its ‘transparency rules’ in December 2018, requiring companies to post their prices on their websites, there have been limited improvements in competition between vendors and industry results.

Legal Services Commission (LSB)

The AMC now recommends that the Legal Services Board (LSB) get involved, working with other industry regulators to address aspects of the original recommendations that still need progress, such as providing more quality information.

This news of slow progress was disappointing, but not surprising. However, it highlights some of the complexities inherent in bringing about change in the sector and points to opportunities that are still waiting to be explored. The legal industry has been slow to embrace and there is an underlying reluctance to reform the foundations of the legal sector, steeped in history and traditions in its methods.

Recent government-supported research conducted by LawtechUK and LSB tThis year highlights the continuing unmet needs of SMEs and moves towards lawtech to fill the gap in the market to better support SMEs in dealing with legal issues.

Many small business owners support the use of legal technology solutions to bridge the gap between the traditional “law firm” approach and “do-it-yourself law”. Talking to small business owners through LawBid has proven that they want access to fast, affordable, convenient and reassuring legal assistance that increases the resilience of their business and most agree that legal technology solutions are likely. to be the means to achieve this balance.

Imagine a sliding scale of business legal issues categorized by urgency and complexity, business owners need guidance on when to get out of DIY attempts and seek legal intervention so legal issues don’t become damaging for their business. Making this step easy and accessible to more businesses is just one area the legal industry needs to focus on improving.

Technology offers potential solutions by making services more convenient, easier to use and less expensive. For example, we have introduced the element of competition in the marketplace that benefits consumers and provides a unique platform of transparency and price comparison that enables consumers to make decisions. However, both the consumer and the lawyer have the option of leaving the tendering process and simply agreeing to a consultation process.

This ultimately leads to greater use of legal services due to a better understanding of how lawyers and law firms work in terms of the prices and services offered, the perceived exclusivity and high prices of which have traditionally deterred many. to seek legal services.

The importance of legal technologies

And while the legal profession has generally been somewhat reluctant to embrace technology in the same way that other industries have, lawtech offers valuable new opportunities for legal service providers to meet the unmet needs of SMEs, access new new markets and new clients and making many lives easier in the process, a goal universally shared by most people entering the legal profession.

I certainly see collaboration as a major key to success, leading from the top will increase confidence. In this regard, the pioneers should be the magic circle. Legal 500 firms can work with legal innovators and technology providers to test and establish tools that improve some of the issues facing consumers continually highlighted in these industry reviews.

In today’s digital age, there is no reason for the legal industry to lag behind its professional contemporaries when it comes to adopting legal technology solutions that better serve consumers. consumers, whether individuals or businesses.

There have been huge investments in legal and legal technologies in recent years and the legal sector as a whole needs to move forward in a positive and consistent manner to embrace these transformative legal products and services in order to improve access to legal services and assistance, including SMEs in need of legal services. help to help them grow and flourish.

Kid Harwood is Director at LawBid

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