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Need a lawyer? There’s an app for that.

Legal app aims to simplify a process that isn’t always simple

Earlier this year, I needed some legal advice. I went about the process in the traditional way: I phoned and texted around for recommendations, grilled my friends and acquaintances, bought them coffees while they told me about their experiences and met with and interviewed potential lawyers before deciding on “the one.”

A new BC-based app Qase launched in February this year has a goal of simplifying the legal process and making the proceedings and fee structure more transparent. It works like this: you fill in an online form with some details about your case, AI connects you with a lawyer who works in the specific area where you need help and you can schedule a free consultation.

Similar apps have existed in the US for several years, including Lawyer Quote, Law Advisor and Legal Services Link. Even on the website Fiverr, there are people advertising they will provide legal services like writing contracts and reviewing agreements, but this is the first home-grown option available to British Columbians.

“I think AI could work for very simple things,” said Kathryn Marshall, employment lawyer at MacDonald & Associates. “If you have a complex matter, AI is not a good avenue for you because you don’t want quick advice. You should spend time researching lawyers and getting a referral, so you can ensure you are getting a lawyer who has expertise in whatever issue you have.”

In my case, my lawyer immediately asked questions and gave advice that proved immeasurably valuable. That’s something I’m not sure could have been accomplished by filling out an online form and a free consultation by an AI selected lawyer.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

“I would be hesitant to get legal advice from a lawyer I haven’t vetted or met, and of course you always want to sign a retainer,” said Marshall.

Sure there is an element of immediacy and convenience that comes with an online tool but it’s not really any speedier than simply picking up the phone.

“If someone needs a lawyer urgently, they can usually find someone. Most lawyers are used to emergency consultations,” said Marshall.

Yes there are a lot of things technology can help with – simplifying document transfers and fee payments for example – but bypassing the vetting process and initial interaction with lawyers at the beginning of an engagement can end up being much costlier and stressful in the long run.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]