Imagine shopping for your groceries and remembering that you needed to check in with your attorney regarding the status of your divorce case. You find a private legal services booth and step inside. You touch a few buttons on the computer tablet attached to the kiosk and a video of a receptionist who works for your law firm comes online to take your request. A few minutes later you chat with your attorney face to face via web conferencing and log off. Your attorney has informed you that she needs another item for the next hearing in your case. You add a note to your grocery list. When you get home, you will upload the document to your attorney online and schedule another video conference through your secure client portal – after putting the groceries away.
Such access to legal services is now available in the UK by a company called Instant Law UK. The LegalFutures blog announced last week that the company was placing video conferencing kiosks in shopping centers this month and by the end of 2012 it hopes to have 120 kiosks across the country. The video conferencing service is also available to clients via the Internet. Areas of law that the company provides include Family, Employment, Personal Injury, Immigration, Landlord & Tenant, Medical Negligence, Contract Disputes, Wills, and Probate.
Prospective clients speak with a solicitor for an average of 15-20 minutes. That solicitor provides consultation and then refers them to one of the firms in the company’s network. It is unclear from the site whether the clients and solicitor may continue to work online or if they must at some point meet in person. I wonder how secure the service is and if the conversations held in video conference are encrypted or at least recorded and placed into a digital file for the client and solicistor’s future reference in the case.
For several years now I have thought it would be nice to have secure video conferencing attached to my virtual law office. It would be great to handle the free consultations straight from the website and then have them register for an account to continue with secure video or web conferencing that would be recorded and stored in their case file online. These legal kiosks in shopping centers take convenience and customer service to a whole new level. Naturally, there are pros and cons with this marketing strategy.
The legal profession in the UK is moving at a different pace than we are here after their Legal Services Act kicked into full swing this past October. It will be interesting to see how quickly these franchised law firms proliferate through the country and whether their successes and failures will have any impact on the legal profession in the U.S. as our ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 reconsiders issues such as nonlawyer ownership and alternative business structures for law firms.
We follow developments in the UK carefully and noted this business was announced. My gut tells me that this won’t work. It makes more sense to conduct these conversations from the privacy of one’s home or office, or from a cell phone in a private place. I thought telephone kiosks were made obsolete by the cell phone and the Web. This seems to me like a high cost throw back to an earlier age. May be it will work in the UK, but not in the US.
I see people rushing to rent a video tape from a kiosk. But, I don’t see them stopping for 20 minutes between the deli and the bakery in a super market to catch some legal advice. Asking for legal advice requires that you think about it first without distractions. People have a hard enough time thinking without distractions and framing their thoughts any way. I can’t see how consumer behaviour maps on to this business model easily. Maybe I will be proved wrong.
Right. Why handle it at the shopping center if you could do the same thing in the privacy of your own home? I think it’s primarily a marketing strategy for this company to build their brand of legal services next to other household names. This company is probably attempting to compete with the initiative by Quality Solicistors which has placed their legal services kiosks in a number of bookstores over there.
I’ve heard of some virtual law firms wanting to set up kiosks like this in their offices to handle the client intake and screening process rather than have the firm’s receptionist handle it. In that case it makes more sense because the client has physically traveled to the law office seeking assistance.
Jay S. Fleischman
Seems to me that a better way to go would be to create a mobile video calling app that uses https protocol, allowing people to simply use the video functionality on their smartphones.
Then again, isn’t this just like making a phone call with your lawyer on speed dial?