Consumers of divorce and separation services “don’t care whether a business is regulated”, the co-founder of pioneering service amicable said this week.
Kate Daly said not being regulated had allowed amicable “to flourish and allowed us to grow” and in just five years become the third biggest supplier in the sector, with the top rating on Trustpilot.
She told this week’s Legal Futures Innovation Conference that regulation should only apply where Parliament said it should (most of the work done by law firms and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and others is not covered by the reserved legal activities).
Ms Daly said that, at its heart, amicable saw “divorce as an emotional business with legal and financial consequences”. Divorces were complicated because people had broken relationships, not because of their finances.
“We’ve created a different way of looking at the problem. We really are in the business of solving human problems, not trying to replicate a legal service.”
She said people had “problems they need help with” and did not see them as being legal matters or consider that they had ‘unmet legal needs’.
“There are different ways of doing things when you put consumers at the heart of your service.”
Ms Daly also said consumers “don’t understand and have no desire to buy unbundled services”. Unbundling, or providing separate elements of a legal service for a separate fee, has long been seen by many as a way of making services, particularly in family law, more affordable.
She went on: “They don’t care whether a business is regulated. For some people that may be sacrilege, but it’s true.
“I have done over 10,000 calls with consumers and not one person has ever asked me if my business was regulated. I promise you it is not a concern for anyone apart from those who worry about regulated services.”
She said the divorce market was very fragmented, with no provider having a share greater than 2%, and amicable had become the third largest “because of our consumer brand and voice”.
When no-fault divorce was introduced earlier this year, amicable was the “most heard voice in all media”, more than family law association Resolution – which had lobbied hard for it – “not because we’re great at marketing or because we’re chippy, but because we spoke in a voice that consumers can relate to”.
Ms Daly said a number of online services that just focused on processing divorces quickly and cheaply were going out of business and making redundancies: “Just automating services is not what this is about; it’s about creating value for the consumer…
“The more people who work with couples rather than the adversarial system the better for everybody.” This raised a wider issue of culture among both qualified lawyers and how the next generation were being trained.
She added that amicable’s vision was “way wider than disrupting or changing or tinkering with the legal services market”. The aim was to “transform how people end relationships and help them do it in a much kinder and much better way”.
Ms Daly pointed also to how the 2020 ruling of Mr Justice Mostyn about the service had helped amicable develop.
He granted declarations making clear that amicable has not broken conflict of interest rules or the Legal Services Act by helping divorcing couples draft their own documents and not use lawyers.
He said there could be “no doubt” that amicable had “greatly improved access to justice for many people” disenfranchised by the removal of legal aid.