Probate Innovation and Automation – a glimpse into the (not too distant) future

It may be trite to say that CLS ‘feel your pain’ but we have been focussing on learning about the modern probate and private client lawyer’s frustrations and pain points in the drive to stay competitive and focussed in today’s changing legal market. The legal profession needs to balance their customer’s demand for speed with attention to detail and total consumer satisfaction. That can be a tightrope to walk whilst managing both overheads and client expectations.

It is only by understanding the probate pain points that CLS can take the first step in working out what the potential solution is. Once we have discovered the root causes of the issues facing our legal clients, we can find an innovative and automated cost-effective solution.

Getting the data and understanding the problem

Experience has shown CLS that as we aren’t at the coal face interacting with law consumers that we can’t and don’t always ‘get it’, however hard we try. That is why we invest heavily in our Customer Focus Groups, who have really come into their own.

A lawyer’s involvement in a Customer Focus Group can feel a bit like therapy, or that is what we are told by the lawyers who participate. Sounding off about problems isn’t just stress relief, it is how CLS  get to understand the common concerns of probate lawyers and unpick them.

Take estate administration client customer complaints to law firms. The overriding complaint is delay. The obvious solution is to recruit an additional private client solicitor or administrative support staff – but is that necessarily the innovative and cost-effective solution to the frustrations experienced by probate clients and their lawyers? That’s where the day-to-day experience of the members of the Customer Focus Group comes into play.

When a law customer complains about delay it can’t or shouldn’t be taken at simple face value. Is the root cause of the delay the lay executors and beneficiaries misperceptions of the probate and estate distribution process, a firm’s need to recruit additional probate solicitors, lack of smart working or a combination of all of these factors? Our Focus Group of estate administration lawyers come from a variety of legal firms and so fully understand the pressures of making probate services a successful part of a full-service commercial law offering as well as the economies of scale of high street practices working to fixed fees with low margins.

Analysing the data

Although private client solicitors and probate lawyers don’t always have a reputation for embracing change and innovation, our Focus Group, whatever the lawyer’s background, were consistently clear that the probate departments of UK law firms are the last to benefit from the same love that technology providers have offered to the conveyancers for years.

The three take-outs from our estate administration Customer Focus Group were:

  • The need for probate lawyers to improve efficiency.
  • The integration of the estate administration service with lawyer’s existing case management systems to reduce data inputting time and errors.
  • The benefits of a ‘one stop shop’ to secure all their probate search, asset tracing and insurance needs.

Talking through these issues highlighted that whilst probate practice is highly divergent, from high-net-worth estates to volume fixed fee probate services, there is a common need for innovation and automation to enable probate solicitors to remain relevant and to stay competitive and offer value in the services they are providing.

From problem to solution

With the CLS Consumer Focus Group the clue is in the name. Just as lawyers need to be adept at listening to the needs of their private clients, CLS are focused on providing innovative solutions for probate solicitors that work for law firms whether the practices are nationally recognised leading providers in probate services or high street practices with a conveyancing solicitor handling the occasional probate.

At CLS, the innovation team are up for a challenge – Anthony O’Hanlon, Head of Customer Development works with the Focus Group to glean insights, then it is over to the mixed-discipline innovation team to come up with the right model and offering for probate solicitors that combines efficiency, simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

We’ve taken the time to design an order platform based on the collaborative feedback of probate professionals. I’m excited to offer our Estate Administration solution to law firms this summer – look out for the launch in early August.” – Anthony O’Hanlon, Head of Customer Development, CLS

Lawyers may question how automation can realistically help probate services where it is often the personal touch that is so important to the bereaved who are struggling through both the legal and emotional impact of winding up an estate. Automation helps from behind the scenes by:

  • Reducing the need to input the same data into different management systems. That frees up time so solicitors aren’t glorified data inputters and instead are available to speak to clients and offer progress reports or take on more referrals.
  • Minimising the risk of errors and complaints through the potential for data to be incorrectly entered on different systems. Processing and manipulating information becomes the straight forward process it should be in a twenty-first century law practice.
  • A reduced need for recruitment of additional administrative staff and improved job satisfaction for existing solicitors and clerks who can focus on the legal process rather than data entry.

Having one place to go to for searches and results will make our job easier. PIPA removes a lot of the administration time as it is so process driven.” – Sarah Walker, Head of Wills, Trusts & Estates, Weightmans.

Has CLS cracked probate automation? Soon you’ll be able to see for yourself as our newest range of products and services launches in August. And the exciting thing is how many more ideas we have coming down the line thanks to our customer Focus Group. This is just the beginning of digital transformation of Estate Administration – finally the move away from paper-trails is here.


This article was submitted to be published by CLS Property Insight as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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