LawTech Is Powering Growth In The UK Wills And Probate Industry

Investment in ‘Lawtech’ is one of the main contributors to strong growth in the UK legal sector.

According to TheCityUK Report titled “Legal Excellence, Internationally Renowned” UK Legal Services 2019 legal technology is fuelling the UK legal industry.

TheCityUK has conducted research into the sector which revealed the UK is the “largest legal services market in Europe……….and is second only to the US Globally”, with revenue increasing by 6% year-on-year to £35.5 billion in 2018, and export trade surplus up to £6.5 billion in the same year — a figure which has more than doubled over the last decade.

The report also finds that the UK leads the way in the legal technology market as the UK is home to almost half (44%) of all lawtech startups in the EU and investment in UK legal technology has grown exponentially over the years – £62 million in 2019 in comparison to only £2.5 million in 2016.

The report revealed that this exponential development is the result of a regional widespread network of ‘tech labs’ created by city law firms and other organisations and sectors. Norton Rose Fulbright‘s innovation hub in Newcastle, Reed Smith‘s tech centre in Leeds and Freshfields‘ legal services in Manchester are all examples.

For a long time legal services have not harnessed or realised the benefits of legal technology but times are changing and more and more legal service providers are adopting new technologies and disrupting the market. With Lawtech having the potential to lower costs, streamline operations more efficiently, save precious time and drive innovation – which improves client satisfaction and in turn potentially passes on those savings to customers.

Furthermore, Lawtech has been welcomed by the sector as it helps drive a work-life balance within the industry. As practitioners demand flexible working hours more and more and better productivity, streamlined systems and technologies will allow professionals to work in a better way than ever before – which saves them time to investigate other revenue streams such as providing additional products and services.

Today’s Wills and Probate asked organisations in the Wills and probate sector, law firms and software solutions providers to talk about how Lawtech has evolved, contributed and impacted on the Wills and probate sector as a whole; and how technology/software has affected law firms’/practitioners’ everyday working life in order to meet the needs of their clients.

Dave Newick, Managing Director of Arken.legal (UK) Ltd said:

“Legal tech has now become a part of everyday life for the busy legal professional – and those operating in the Wills and probate sector are increasingly looking for digital solutions to aid efficiency, manage risk and better their client journey. In our experience, the demand is increasing for best in class solutions with APIs linking them together for seamless data transfer and one version of the client. There has been much disruption in the sector with new entrants and the birth of online Wills into the marketplace – this is great for simple Wills but it is also necessary to provide a route online for those needing more complex support and advice.

“Arken has seen unprecedented growth over the last couple of years, as the legal professional starts on the digitisation process – not only to speed up productivity, aid consistency and improve the client experience, but to provide greater flexibility in the workplace – whether that be flexible working, 4 day weeks or just greater agility and growth. The market will continue to change over the next few years with Millennials gaining assets and also helping manage the affairs of their baby boomer or Generation X parents. Arken.legal’s product suite has grown due to client demand for wider solutions – from digital fact finds to flexibility on-the-move, from online Wills to in-depth tax advice on trusts, from simple Wills to the most complex. Our product suite can deliver significant benefits to our users and we are really proud of our solutions and how they are developing. Arken will never stay still – we are always innovating and working with our clients to provide the very best service that the latest technology can offer.”

Stuart Whittle, Partner and Head of our Innovation and Tech team at Weightmans commented:

“At a fundamental level it is no longer possible, and it hasn’t been for some time, to practice law effectively without some level of technology. The focus for us at Weightmans has been on looking to identify tasks that are repeatable and predictable and then apply technology to remove the need to complete those tasks manually. A good example of this with technology that has emerged over the last few years is to use software with natural language processing and machine learning capability to extract structured data from unstructured or semi-structured legal documents. For example, the software can be taught to identify clauses of a particular type and extract them from electronically scanned copies of hard-copy documents. So for example, you might wish to review your wills bank for particular clauses and alert clients that their wills may need reviewing as a result of a change in the law. Doing this manually would be a laborious and costly activity that technology can now do cost effectively with a high degree of accuracy.”

Emily Deane, Technical Counsel at STEP further commented:

“We recognise the growing contribution of technology within the sector and welcome its many benefits to clients and practitioners. Working with technology brings increased obligations to firms to safeguard the data of clients, to comply with relevant legislation whilst also ensuring the competence of all users. Will writing has seen significant growth. The increasing popularity of online wills enables firms to reach more consumers and enabling greater access to legal services. However, everyone needs to be vigilant in safeguarding against fraudulent use and consumers should be mindful of purchasing products which have not been tailored to their needs.”

Ben Furlong, Associate Director of Estatesearch, added:

“The legal industry has seen rapid growth in the number of new technology systems designed to support legal professionals improve efficiency, compliance and security. While the probate sector seems to be slightly behind the curve, in recent years we’ve seen a surge in tech start-ups creating interesting and disruptive technologies.

“Technology is changing the landscape of the legal profession, commoditising some legal services and introducing sophisticated automation through the introduction of machine learning and AI. Nevertheless, personalised service remains a hallmark of the private client sector and technology should enable professionals to focus on providing a better client experience. At Estatesearch, we’re proud to be helping leading firms introduce technology to create efficiency and resilience in their business, while building foundations for improved client outcomes.”

Charlotte Ponder, Legal Director at Countrywide Tax & Trust Corporation Ltd further added:

“Clients anticipate technology to be incorporated into all aspects of service in 2020 because paperless working is the future – and not just in the legal sector. The effect of an increased public consciousness that favours efficiency, sustainability and convenience can already been seen across many sectors and will only continue to amplify – the legal industry must follow suit and reflect the public demand for change.

“To work in a paperless office makes your processes much faster which in turn saves money. Staff have a pleasant environment to work in, and clients have a much better impression of your business – because queries can be answered much more quickly when the file is available at the touch of a button. Client expectations are only going in one direction, and we all have to work smarter to meet and exceed them. They’re also much more cost conscious and will not pay for inefficiency.

“Where businesses adapt to incorporate technological platforms, not only is company practice vastly improved, but more businesses certify themselves as market leaders. In an industry encouraging companies to stand out for all the right reasons, the time has come to finally harness the power of technology within law to ensure clients receive a more efficient, well-rounded service. It is great to see so many people across the industry embracing technology to improve the service they can offer to clients, we just have to hope that the law will adapt in line with the pace of technology. Countrywide Legacy is certainly using paperless procedures wherever possible and adapting to the changing needs of clients and practitioners.”

1 Comment

  • test

    I’ve been in the lawtech business over 20 years, including my time as a partner in a law firm taking our first faltering steps. I can say from my own experience that the professional as a whole has been slow to embrace technology, but attitudes have changed markedly in the last couple of years, with interest accelerating in line with the realisation that we have to operate in a high tech world and it’s no longer acceptable to deny our clients the experience that they enjoy in most other aspects of their personal and business lives. Lawyers have a unique opportunity to blend human know how and empathy with the best that technology can offer, the time is now and has been for quite a while.

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