In the age of information technology and innovation, legal services are sadly still inaccessible to the majority of the South African population, but with the recent entry of Epoq Legal into the South African marketplace – able to provide online legal document and form drafting services unlike any other in the industry at a fraction of the cost – the hope is that this will no longer be the case.
Throughout the consumer lifecycle there are countless times that the need for legal services arise; whether it be a lease agreement, antenuptial or, the inevitable, drafting of a Will. The same can be said for business; and whilst many lawyers charge a small fortune for their time and expertise in these matters there are alternative, more affordable legal service providers that offer telephonic legal advice and ‘flat’ downloadable documents, but which are rarely suitable for every individual and their unique circumstance. However, with Epoq Legal offering automated services through already established institutions, there is now the opportunity of presenting a highly comprehensive, affordable and accessible online legal service to the end consumer – one that can be tailored to circumstance – with many more advantages to the service provider.
Who are Epoq Legal and how exactly does the service work?
Epoq Legal have been operating in the UK for nearly two decades, as well as in the USA. Epoq is a pioneer in the development of online legal document services, which are now the most widely used solutions of their kind in the UK by major firms and institutions like Which?, MORE TH>N (part of the RSA Insurance Group), Slater & Gordon Lawyers and Thomson Reuters (who own Contract Express).
Essentially, the document automation software is designed to deliver large volumes of bespoke legal documents and contracts replicating the face-to-face question and answer session a lawyer would normally have with a client and then formulating a final document in real-time. The software makes the process of creating complex legal documents quick, easy, consistent and affordable; as opposed to the use of flat forms and the age-old method of cutting-and-pasting clauses together from previous templates, which is time-consuming, inefficient and prone to errors.
How does Epoq Legal’s technology differ from other existing providers?
Unlike other document automation or assembly systems, Epoq’s in-house software Rapidocs® is considerably more complex than simple field population or basic ‘IF statement’ driven solutions. Documents can have several hundred rules, validators and conditions, not to mention version control. They are designed with end-users in mind and have explanations next to every question as well as a set of searchable guidance notes built within.
How does Epoq Legal’s technology benefit organisations?
Epoq’s Rapidocs® technology reduces costs and improves process efficiency. It offers a value add to customers, thereby retaining the existing database and attracting new customers. It offers an easy ‘off the shelf’ solution with minimal involvement needed from other areas of the business and with multiple delivery methods, the solution aids in differentiating an institutions regular offering from that of the competition.
Furthermore, the platform includes an API that can be used to mine data and prepopulate other related documents.
Chief Operating Officer of Epoq Legal (South Africa), Emile Gerber, says: “In July this year the Masters of the court reported that 70% of the working population don’t have a Will. In addition, the number of internet users in South Africa has more than doubled in the last five years. We know that consumers are becoming more confident about using online services in general and as more consumers choose mobile and online as their preferred method of access to an increasingly wide range of services, the banking, insurance and legal industries also need to look at ways to make their services more accessible and affordable.
The use of Epog’s technology reduces the cost to serve and for institutions, doing things quicker and more efficiently translates into financial growth and savings that can be passed on to consumers.”
In the UK, Epoq Legal offer a range of over 300 legal precedents (trusted and used by Legal500 law firms) as well as several thousand law guide articles – a library of legal information written in plain English by lawyers. Currently in South Africa, Epoq will be focussing on Will drafting with a view to increasing the selection of documents offered in time.