A new era for the legal industry: how LegalDefence is making law more accessible

We spoke to Mike Roberts, managing director of LegalShield, about the launch of its new legal advice app LegalDefence. Will it succeed in making law more accessible to the public? And how might apps like this one challenge the legal industry as it stands?

  • Last updated Aug 20, 2019 10:20:17 AM
  • Anna Vall Navés & Tuula Petersen
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When it comes to looking for legal advice, UK citizens tend to be reluctant to take action, or find themselves unable to allocate time to deal with their issues. LegalDefence seeks to work on these two concerns by providing an app-based legal advice provider. Currently, around 1.7 million people in the US are active users of the app, and its user base is slowly growing in the UK. 

What makes the app so reliable and serviceable is its partnership with customer law firm Slater and Gordon in all areas of law. To add to these impressive credentials, the app provides legal advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Another reason people feel reluctant to seek legal advice is the perceived traditional and inaccessible nature of law firms. As Mike Roberts, managing director of LegalDefence, explains, the aim of LegalDefence is “to break down these barriers”.

The services LegalDefence provides 

Unlike its competitors, LegalDefence is a one-stop, law-firm-backed app; whether an individual is simply looking for legal advice or they need help formulating contractual agreements, LegalDefence is able to offer assistance.

Users can rest assured the advice provided on the app comes from qualified legal advisers. Due to its partnership with Slater and Gordon, users have direct access to specialised lawyers and paralegals. Areas of law covered by the app include family matters; wills, estate and probate; property; driving offence; employment advice; personal injury; consumer rights and criminal assistance. However, if you require further assistance or need advice in another area of law, LegalDefence will refer its clients to Slater and Gordon with a 25% discounted rate. Subscribers to LegalDefence pay between £19 to £24 a month, providing unlimited access to Gordon, a chatbot capable of answering common legal queries. Additional features at the users’ disposal comprise a library of self-help legal documents.

While the current application is geared towards individual claims, LegalDefence is looking to expand and provide legal assistance to small to medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). This is partly due to the legal complexity associated with starting a new business venture and the generally tight budgets of SMEs. Although consumer laws in the UK are very thorough and capable, most individuals are unaware of their rights, which is why LegalDefence seeks to facilitate access to the law without the hassle of going through the bureaucracy of a law firm. How does it differ from a regular legal advice?

LegalDefence removes many of the perceived barriers to accessing the law. Like many other services nowadays—including banking and even medical help—LegalDefence makes legal advice readily accessible through an app. It’s often difficult for the general public to know where to go or what to do when a legal problem arises, but LegalDefence eliminates this problem by guiding its users through the process from the moment they download the app. Roberts emphasised that, besides being easy to use, LegalDefence can be used at any given time—there’s no need to book an appointment and no times when it’s not available: “It offers unlimited advice on a 24/7 basis, and that is unique.” LegalDefence’s users know that legal help is always there if a legal emergency arises, which is not something that most traditional law firms can offer.

Another factor that frequently discourages people from seeking legal advice is its potential cost. Legal fees can be intimidating to clients, particularly when they’re not quite sure what they need. LegalDefence costs between £19 and £24 a month, and this fee provides both the users and their families with legal support. “The great thing about LegalDefence is that it covers all of the family and it effectively places legal services at the fingertips of the user,” Roberts explains. 

Will LegalDefence threaten the legal industry as it stands?

The short answer is no—but firms that do not embrace attempts to make the law more accessible might begin to encounter challenges. Mentioning many law firms’ reluctance to change their traditional way of operating, Roberts praises Slater and Gordon because “they’re a very progressive firm and they speak the same language as us”. 

Let’s take a look at a classic example: that of the general practitioner (GP). As medical advice has become readily available on the internet, rather than asking their patients to describe their symptoms, many GPs now find themselves asking their patients what they think is wrong. In response to these changing circumstances, Roberts states he can see LegalDefence “being used in that way”, but that’s not to say that solicitors will become redundant any more than GPs ever will. 

“Our point is this,” Roberts concludes: “the law is practised by solicitors and barristers, but it is not owned by them—the law is owned by the people. But people don’t necessarily think of it in that way, and that’s the reason why, on many occasions, we are reluctant to engage with the legal sector. Concerns with costs, time, and whether the person we’re speaking to is an expert in that area of law, are all effectively removed through our app.”

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