I'm miffed. There is a pioneering new online service out there called Intelligent Divorce and I think its probably a stroke of genius.
Intelligent Divorce is an online service for divorcing couples (or for one half of a divorcing couple) which enables them to access high quality advice from a specialist family barrister at a reasonable price, without paying solicitors rates for the grunt work of gathering information. It is the brainchild of one solicitor (Mahie Abey) and one barrister (James Roberts at 1 KBW) and although in some respects it is very much a new way of delivering legal services, beneath the facade it is structured the good old fashioned way using technology to streamline and route information via solicitor and then on to a barrister - this is not a direct access project. This leads to a streamlined front end experience but an exquisitely complex set of T&Cs.
The information on the site is well thought through and clearly explained for non-lawyers. There is a very useful Guide which is worth reading even if you don't ultimately use the service. The functionality on the site is excellent - I trialled account creation, inputting my information (don't tell my husband) and testing out how it worked - it was very intuitive and well designed. Stage by stage you input your personal and financial information and circumstances which is collated by Intelligent Divorce before being passed on to the lawyers for advice. You pay a fixed fee, which is clearly explained and in return you get an advice from counsel for what seems like a very competitive rate.
Users can choose whether to go solo, providing all the information themselves and obtaining an advice for their own purposes, or working in tandem with the other spouse to obtain an impartial advice that both can use to work out how to settle their arrangements.
As all lawyers know it is a prerequisite of all legal sector software that it must be (barely) functional, utterly unintuitive and visually dated (grey clunky boxes). Congratulations to Intelligent Divorce for bucking this trend. It is beautifully straightforward and I could find no glitches (if I had found any I would have been compelled to point them out in the same way that one is compelled to point out spelling errors).
So, in summary:
For couples divorcing - Intelligent Divorce is well worth consideration. It is a non-confrontational way for both of you to get some good advice for a very reasonable price. I would be very happy to get advice from counsel at 1 KBW for about £800 all in. And if you use the couples service they will draft your consent order for you. If you are able to use an online divorce service to sort out your divorce itself you could potentially sort out the whole chabang for under £2000. £2000 is a lot of money when you have none, but believe me this is cheap. Of course, if you use ID and don't resolve things by agreement you may end up having to go through the court process anyway, but if you start the process well informed and with all your financial information to hand it would not be money wasted. (Cheeky plug - of course, if you do need to go to court you could always buy my book).
For lawyers - kick yourselves. Hard. Who needs ABS or direct access? This is just good lawyering, good client care and good business sense. Go and visit this website and ponder your own business development strategy. The future is upon us - there will be many many new business models, projects and innovations springing up all over the place and no doubt many will fail. My guess would be that this one will be successful - look carefully at this site and learn. It has been a thoroughly thought through project, and a vast amount of effort and planning has gone into it. Are you ready to compete?