Post by Patrick Torsney on Apr 11, 2012 8:02:57 GMT
From the Legal Futures website:
Top chambers and law centre throw weight behind pioneering webcam legal service
Webcam: an OXSRAD staff member tries out the Instant Law service One of the country’s largest barristers’ chambers has joined forces with Instant Law UK, as it rolls out its library-based video-conferencing service.
Instant Law will next week also give library users access to what it claims is the country’s first interactive, online debt and employment law service, in conjunction with a London law centre.
As first revealed on Legal Futures, Instant Law has launched its service in Marylebone Public Library, followed by Birmingham Central Library, the biggest public library in Europe. A further 10 libraries in the Birmingham City Council area have been earmarked for the service.
Initially, users are put through to an Instant Law UK solicitor who will give the first advice free of charge; if a barrister is deemed appropriate for the case, St Philips Chambers will cover instructions coming out of Birmingham, while talks are ongoing with another major chambers in London to cover Westminster Council libraries.
The solicitor advice is provided by a mixture of in-house solicitors based at Instant Law’s Oxford call-centre, home workers and, where appropriate, firms in the HighStreetLawyer.com network.
Chris Owen, chief executive of St Philips Chambers, said: “When St Philips was invited to join this innovative service for the Birmingham public at large, I was delighted to accept. Our first case has proceeded well and produced a considerable saving for the client. I see this service becoming more popular as the public become accustomed to the facility and it also allows us to bring our law firm friends into a matter when the case warrants it.”
Instant Law UK has formed a commercial relationship with Camden Community Law Centre (CCLC) to launch the online debt and employment law service, provided by CCLC staff, next Monday.
Post by Patrick Torsney on Apr 11, 2012 12:55:23 GMT
I'm curious what people think of this service. Is it useful? Does it fill a niche? Is it a niche that thinks it's wider than a niche and an "innovative" (as some have been wont to call it) service, even panacea to perceived inadequacies in current advice provision? Will it work - I believe there have been other attempts at the 'telephone booth/video conferencing' advice delivery model, but I had always assumed these didn't get anywhere?
Has anyone got any info on its charging structure, which presumably kicks in after the first free 20 minutes? Who is it aimed at - presumably, not the people currently entitled to legal aid given that there is a charge for ongoing work?
Is this simply a private sector attempt at a 'telephone gateway', but for the better off: if there's money in it for the provider (with a cut for Instant Law?), people will be helped; if the caller can't pay ongoing fees or the case doesn't have enough of a risk-to-profit ratio, they will be signposted to their local face-to-face provider AKA local CABx or law centre etc? How might this work when there is a telephone gateway, assuming it gets through in LASPO?
Lots of questions, and I don't profess to know the answers. However, someone does so, hopefully we can discuss it. Any thoughts or answers, please feel free to reply here
Post by Patrick Torsney on Apr 11, 2012 14:39:33 GMT
Network, I did contact them directly, via twitter at least - providing the link to here and asking them politely if they want to come back to me by email if that's easier than replying here
And why is it always so difficult talking to you, Network? What's with the "nerve" and "bottle"? There always seems to be a tone of disguised contempt in your messages - what gives? If anything, it makes for an unpleasant discussion and is quite unnecessary, if not unprofessional. That's a gentle warning, by the way; let's keep the tone constructive
Something has to fill the gap when we lose our (CAB) employment law (and debt) legal help contract next year - will this service do that? Five years of the contract has left volunteers somewhat de-skilled - this will need to be remedied too.
Instant Law UK now on-line and will stay online for a while happy to receive any of your questions. Wwe may try to give a brief over view of what Instant Law UK are trying to do, without using the site to promote the service.
Message for Patrick: If you think Networks threads are rude or a pain then you need to see their e-mail correspondence with us.
We have had an opportunity to view many of the threads and views regarding the Instant Law UK service (including those from (Network).
Instant Law UK is one of the services which will be launched on the Instant Advice Network (IAN).
The aim of IAN is to create a national video conf advice service/network. Legal services is only one of the services we are seeking to introduce.
What is IAN?
IAN is made up of two groups. If we think about it as a brain (apologise if patronizing).
Right hand side is made up of colleagues who have worked with nfp/public sector. Left hand side is made up colleagues who have no experience of working with or within the nfp/public sector.
Both sides agree that we have developed the technology to link user directly with a range of service providers, via a standard BT broadband line.
It was clear from meetings with a number of nfps etc that it was unlikely that we would be allowed to trail the service within their locations, or them trialling the delivering of the service. Hence working with library services.
One side of IAN believes that it is highly unlikely that a private sector company would be able to work with nfp in a cost affective way.
In order to take it forward we have recruited private solicitors to deliver service. However one side of IAN believes it is possible for Private sector to work cost effectively with nfp. We have entered into a commercial agreement with a law centre. This allows us to buy advice service directly from nfp.
If this works, we may look at combining are in house solicitors with the purchase of services from nfp advice centres.
Competition with nfp?
We do not see Instant Law UK as competitor to nfp advice sector. We noted a comment regarding the possibility of a user requiring on-going representation and the need for client to be referred to a local advice agency.
This is already happening. If a nfp can not represent someone they often refer to a solicitors firm. I am sure we would not say that the referring agency is not required simply because they can not undertake casework or representation.
Post by Colin Henderson on Apr 16, 2012 16:54:08 GMT
It's an interesting use of technology, but I just don't get where the money for delivering the advice comes from. Does the client pay or not? If so when, and how much?
Here's the Solicitor's Journal's analysis of Instant Law:
"Instant Law sprung on to the legal radar just over a month ago, seemingly out of nowhere, when it set up a service offering legal advice by webcam in Birmingham central library. Visitors can now pop into a secure phone box installed on library premises and talk to a solicitor using videoconferencing technology.
The service, which is free to libraries and free to users for the first 20 minutes, is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, when Tesco law appears to be all about brands such as the Co-op or QualitySolicitors, Instant Law could redefine the rules of the game before the party has even started in earnest.
Already the initiative is joining up a number of dots on the legal services map. The brainchild of former legal aid solicitor Marlan Higgins, Instant Law is the most recent incarnation of some of his earlier projects. In 2005 Higgins – then senior partner at Oxford-based firm Turpin and Miller – set up a similar service for housing law clients. Two years later, he set up on his own and launched Legal Advice Direct, in Witney. The local MP, David Cameron, welcomed it as an alternative service that could help plug the legal aid gap in the area.
Little has happened since. But, four years on, Higgins has dusted down the idea again and this time it could catch on. Legal aid has been cut back, advice centres are under pressure from government budget cuts, and the Legal Services Act is fostering new thinking. The legal world is now a different place where this kind of service is more likely to meet a need in the community.
Instant Law put its first phone boxes in public libraries in Westminster and Marylebone before heading north to Birmingham central library. The plan, according to Instant Law’s business development director Ian Dodd, is to try to reach 100 by the end of the year, starting with 40 in the Birmingham area.
The decision to open in libraries is almost accidental, as initially the plan was to site the phone boxes in shopping centres – think along the lines of MTA’s LawStore in Bromley’s Regents Arcade. Birmingham central library, however, shows it’s not so much about being in one type of outlet or another but simply being where people congregate. The library backs onto the Paradise Forum shopping centre, which has an annual 12m visitor footfall and provides another access route to Instant Law’s red phone boxes.
Clients should be able to receive meaningful enough advice in their first free 20 minutes, and they will be told if their case needs further research and how much this would cost. The service covers family law, housing, employment, wills and debt advice and should go towards providing access to justice for those unable to secure legal aid or to pay privately for legal advice. That’s a few dots potentially being joined up.
Other connections are also coming live, bringing together Instant Law technology and advice organisations – the first deal has just been signed up with Camden Law Centre. And, on top of webcam advice, the Instant Law portal offers users access to general information about the law provided by The Justice Gap and they can click through to Epoq’s Desktop Lawyer service with its portfolio of letter templates and build-your-own legal documents. The look and feel is a little rough and ready, but what is important is the set of links it establishes. The latest – not directly visible on the portal – is the tie up with St Philips Chambers last week, whose barristers will provide advocacy for cases originating in the Birmingham area. A similar arrangement is being finalised with a London set for cases originating in the capital – some of which are handled by highstreetlawyer.com.
There is one important dot over which a question mark remains at this stage. What’s in it for solicitors involved and how many of the 20-minute loss-leader conversations are sustainable? Stripped of the webcam veneer, Instant Law is a referral network charging lawyers in return for putting them in front of clients. This is how its founders intend to generate revenue and the viability of the model will depend on attracting enough members. The technology is merely an enabling mechanism – undeniably a very important one – but ultimately the system will only work if it is financially viable for the lawyers putting their time into it. Even more significantly, with the number of legal aid firms and advice organisations shrinking, Instant Law could be the test the sector needs to determine whether private sector entrepreneurs can step into the widening justice gap."