A solicitor has launched a groundbreaking website that provides people charged with motoring offences a free online diagnosis of their case, backed up by the option of instructing a barrister to represent them at the hearing at the click of a button, Legal Futures can reveal.
The aim of RoadTrafficRepresentation.com (RTR) is to replicate the process a solicitor would go through when considering a motoring offence, and does it much quicker and at no cost by automating this and getting the user to enter all their details into the system.
Martin Langan has spent three years developing RTR and particularly the artificial intelligence behind it, which then advises on the chances of conviction and likely penalty by applying the sentencing guidelines to the facts. He has tied up with Old Bailey Chambers in London to help manage the instruction of counsel if requested either to defend the case or put mitigation.
Clients pay £960 for a one-day trial in the Crown Court, £678 for the magistrates’ court and £399 for a plea in mitigation, most of which goes to the barrister. Users can also seek telephone advice for £35 per call (provided by Law Express), while there are additional fixed-fee services, for example before deciding on a plea a letter to the CPS seeking advance information and then advising the client about plea on the strength of the reply is £36 inclusive, while for £24 they can buy a template letter to plead guilty by post that ensures all the right points of mitigation are made; for an extra sum this will be reviewed by a lawyer.
Mr Langan’s firm, the LSA Partnership, is technically the instructing solicitor and receives a small share of the fees.
An internal messaging system means the barrister and client can communicate if needed.
Mr Langan was a partner at a Surrey firm until 2003 before setting up Legal Workflow Ltd, through which he customises workflow systems for lawyers. “I am wedded to automating what you can,” he told Legal Futures. In time instructing counsel will be even more automated through the system scanning relevant barristers’ diaries to find one available to attend the hearing and booking them for it.
Mr Langan candidly admitted that his main concern is whether the system is ahead of its time. “Are people ready for it?” he asked. “Will people trust their case to the computer? That is why the telephone service is there.” He said road traffic offences are a good place to start because it is a self-contained area of law, and if successful he will look to expand the system to other areas of practice.
“I like to think it will change the game to some extent and become the accepted way of doing things,” Mr Langan said.
Nicholas Bull, a barrister at Old Bailey Chambers who has been heavily involved in the project, described RTR as “a pretty impressive piece of kit – we put a lot of time and effort into road-testing it”.
He continued: “It’s made me realise how simple the information is that we actually require. [RTR] has distilled a series of steps to get that information. As a barrister I am better prepared than if a solicitor just calls up with an instruction because the website asks the right questions.”