The information-gathering application for family lawyers has extended its capacity into a number of new client types.
First, let’s recap: for those who aren’t aware, Engage is a web application that helps prospective clients, in their own time, put together all the information a family lawyer requires ahead of a first meeting – ensuring bespoke advice can be given at that first meeting. Engage enhances the initial consultation for both the family lawyer, as they have all the facts, and for the client, as they feel prepared and informed ahead of the meeting. The first version of Engage was designed to deal with the financial and child-related issues that commonly arise out of two specific relationship “types”: married couples and civil partners. This made practical sense as these relationships account for around 60% of the revenue for most family law teams.
Engage has always been an iterative project: feedback from family lawyers and client users alike has helped to streamline and improve the overall experience and functionality. Some of the changes over time are indiscernible, but the aggregate effect of the many tweaks, adjustments and polishes (in the hundreds) is significant.
Smaller, iterative changes amount to business as usual in tech development. But, in the background, a more dynamic plan was being hatched.
The ambition for Engage was always to leverage the conditional logic at its heart to accommodate other, less well-travelled family law journeys. Now that Engage has passed the acid-test of positive client feedback (see Review 203, p38) it is time to unveil Engage v2.0.
Resolution’s Cohabitation Awareness Week in November 2019 was a great campaign and it was heartening to see so many firms putting their weight behind the initiative. For the team at Family Law Lab, the Resolution campaign had a galvanising effect. We were acutely aware that cohabitees are less likely to recognise a need for legal advice when relationship difficulties arise and less likely to seek legal help even if the need is identified. In short, cohabitees – the fastest growing family unit in the UK – needed Engage as much, if not more, than married couples. Engage v2.0 can now accommodate different types of relationships, including cohabiting couples, so more prospective clients can use this application.
We have been conscious that capturing the relevant information from cohabiting clients requires, in places, a significant departure from the narrative structures commonly deployed by family practitioners for married and civil partners. If anything, the need to allow cohabitee clients the space and time to tell their story is greater than for married clients. How else to unearth the discussions, emails or texts that may put flesh on the bones of a constructive trust or estoppel issue? And yet, with the greater freedom to tell a story comes the danger of too much information; too many red herrings. So, the challenge in Engage v2.0 for cohabitee journeys was to temper a greater structural freedom with some clear signposting and boundaries to keep the factual journey on the legal straight and narrow.
We believe we have achieved this balance for cohabitees in Engage v2.0.
Engage v2.0 can also deal with prospective clients needing advice in these challenging cases, whether it is immediate post-death advice or mid-proceedings. We cover:
- married couples and civil partners;
- cohabitees or former cohabitees; and
- claims on behalf of children where the deceased parent was never married, in a civil partnership or a cohabiting relationship with the surviving parent.
Engage v2.0 acknowledges the sensitivity of the situation for such clients and adjusts the language accordingly.
Accentuate the positive
The public may not associate family lawyers with much in the way of positivity, but Engage v2.0 also caters for prospective clients building a relationship rather than leaving it. So, we have built a pre-nuptial and pre-civil partnership journey through Engage as well as a route for those wishing to address post-nuptial planning. For these journeys, we have adjusted the language and tone to align with the more constructive journey envisaged, without losing the rigour needed to mitigate the legal risk. Cohabitees wishing to instruct us for a Living Together Agreement are also covered in Engage 2.0.
The road less-travelled
Our ambition is that Engage can be offered to nine out of every 10 new client prospects that pick up the phone to a family law team.
Engage now accommodates 13 different types of family law journeys, some of them considerably less common than others. A good example is a spouse who has dissolved a marriage or civil partnership abroad and now wishes to consider financial remedy claims in the English & Welsh jurisdiction. Engage 2.0 has this covered because, as we know, these less-travelled roads pose more risk for family lawyers and will benefit from the consistency that Engage will apply in each case.
Fast-track for children-centred concerns
For Engage 2.0 we have recognised that there will be occasions when there will be a perceived user-need, despite there being a requirement for wide-ranging advice, to just focus on children. We have created a “fast-track” journey through Engage that achieves this by removing as many questions as possible to leave a core focus on welfare issues and arrangements for children.
The future of Engage and Family Law Lab
Alongside Engage, the Family Law Lab team are continuing to develop other family law tech applications. Those firms already using Engage will, naturally, be the first to see those applications.
We now have 15 family law teams using Engage, these firms will automatically be transitioned to Engage v2.0 during January. Any further legal firms joining us after that point will be using Engage v2.0 from the outset. Engage is the first application from Family Law Lab and it has already proved its worth with practitioners and clients alike, so we will be extending the duration of the trials into 2020. Firms wishing to use Engage can register their interest here or contact us on 01273 916353.