When we opened up free access to our Engage pilot in 2019 to a handful of firms, we hadn’t reckoned on a global pandemic impacting the family law community. When the extent of the disruption to family law practitioners and our clients became evident in April this year our team knew there was only one response: throw open the doors to the pilot.
We had a receptive audience. It is a well-rehearsed comment now amongst lawyers that Covid has initiated a sea-change in the legal industry’s attitude towards digital working, seen most obviously in the adoption of Zoom and other video conferencing applications to maintain meaningful communication with our clients. I can vouch for this wholescale attitude change having had discussions with over 50 family teams between April to June of this year. Digital adoption in the main was driven by necessity for these teams: to keep the ‘doors open’ for prospective new clients.
If I could characterise this attitude change it would be broadly that digital applications like Engage were no longer to be filed on the ‘interesting’ pile and forgotten about. It was no longer a case of business as usual. The ability of lawyers to pivot quickly to new systems and new technologies became a matter of economic survival in the early weeks of the pandemic. I had the sense for the first time in a decade that I was pushing at an open door. The default was no longer for my legal peers to find the quickest way to say “No”.
I’ll share one thing we have learned already; it is possible to square the family law circle. By which I mean we can make quality legal advice more widely available, on more affordable terms, via delivery models that hold value for clients and are economically viable for lawyers. Prototype digital platforms like Engage demonstrate it is possible to strip away inefficiencies and present opportunities to make early intervention legal advice affordable. The aims of delivering client-centric innovation and ensuring economic viability for legal practitioners are not mutually exclusive. Technology is the key to an alignment of interests for both stakeholders.
Having thrown open the doors we now have to temporarily close them, having filled all the available spaces on the first phase of the Engage pilot. We are working collaboratively with those firms who joined the pilot and will be evaluating how they are utilising Engage. The good news is that we will be launching our next pilot window later this year based on the learnings and insights now being gathered. Family practitioners may reserve their places now for when the Engage pilot reopens by registering here or contacting us on 01273 916353.