A legal technology firm is developing a web-based platform that aims to bridge the growing gap between family lawyers and potential clients
Michael Perlman has an inside line on both sides of the family law equation. The President of DivorceMate Software manages the DivorceMate products for family law professionals, as well as the popular, public-facing MySupportCalculator (“MSC”) for people going through a divorce or separation. “On one hand we have over 4,000 family law offices across Canada using DivorceMate, and on the other hand we have over 700 daily visitors on MySupportCalculator going through a separation/divorce. It made sense to connect these groups.”
With that in mind, DivorceMate is developing a new collaborative software platform for the family law profession that will allow family law professionals to connect not only with their current clients, opposing counsel, and other family law professionals (including mediators, arbitrators and eventually the court), but also with prospective clients on MSC. Essentially this online platform is designed to connect all stakeholders in the family law arena. It will improve access to family law professionals for the public, while also facilitating improved efficiencies, communication and better client service for existing relationships.
Some of the key efficiencies in the portal will relate to workflow, document exchange and ease of communication between professionals and clients. Through their web-accessed account, family law professionals are already able to create court forms, draft agreements, and run support calculations remotely from wherever they are, safely and securely. With the creation of the collaborative web-based platform, professionals will now be able to easily access and exchange documents with their clients from anywhere in the world.
Perlman believes family lawyers need to become more client centric and demonstrate that their clients are getting value for their money. A more streamlined, efficient workflow will better help lawyers demonstrate their value to clients. For example, Perlman explained that clients will be able to fill out intake forms on the new platform, or take the first stab at drafting a financial statement. This enables the client’s often limited resources to be directed to aspects of the case most deserving of the professional’s skill and expertise.
The platform will also provide a way for lawyers and other professionals to share documents with one another, and will include extensive editing tools, such as tracking changes, highlighting and making notes on the documents exchanged.
“One of the main goals of the platform is to create a future marketplace for family law services” Perlman says. “What DivorceMate is going to do is make it easy for professionals to market their services and for the general public, with the click of a button, to purchase those services.”
The other exciting piece of the puzzle that can be facilitated by the new collaborative platform is the connection between the self-represented public and the legal profession through limited retainers, often referred to as “unbundled” legal services. DivorceMate is very cognizant of the current reality where more and more Canadians are getting divorced without the help of lawyers or other family law professionals. “Based on recent studies, we know that many of these ‘self reps’ would prefer not to go it completely alone and would appreciate some sort of help from a family law professional,” Perlman explained. For lawyers to thrive in an increasingly online, informed, and cost-conscious client marketplace, Perlman believes offering limited help, or “unbundled” services, will play a big role. “Many lawyers are going to have to change the way that they practice family law and service their clients if they hope to maintain business, and providing limited assistance to a client might be a way to get people back into the lawyer’s office.”
DivorceMate is planning to start rolling the platform out this autumn. The idea is to begin with simpler efficiencies like intake forms and secure document storage before expanding the platform’s functionality to facilitate a real web-based marketplace for family legal services.
“I think that future generations are more apt to go on their computer or on their phone to conduct business.” In Perlman’s view, it’s platforms like this that will keep family lawyers relevant in the lives of future generations.