Automation makes criminal law commercially viable
GT Stewart restructures client onboarding at police stations using P4W and FormShare.
GT Stewart was set up in 2003 by a group of lawyers who wanted to fight for clients irrespective of their ability to pay. Today, the firm employs 175 staff across the UK. The firm recognised that the climate for publicly funded work was increasingly adverse. By 2018, it had withstood a decade’s worth of Legal Aid fee cuts. To continue its mission to practise criminal defence law, an area of practice which makes a loss much of the time, it had to find a way to radically cut cost.
FormShare software gave GT Stewart the opportunity to do this. It had taken part in a P4W User Group initiative in which 14 firms had pooled their resources to each develop a form they needed using FormShare. This showed it what could be achieved, and in June 2018, the firm started work on the creation of an automated police station onboarding form.
GT Stewart’s key goal was to drastically lower costs of police station client inception, in order to increase the financial viability of giving criminal law client access to justice.
An automated form could make a huge difference by cutting the administration needed to onboard criminal law clients. The standard process was messy, time consuming and costly. It started with manual form filling at a police station, followed by the manual keying of information into the firm’s database once the physical form was back at the office.
It was an error prone process as administrative personnel struggled to decipher the handwriting of others. The numerous pieces of paper involved meant it was also insecure. In addition, as the information provided might be incomplete, there was every chance of further delays which could negatively impact the client experience. All those issues arose even before the data could be used to manually create new client and matter files.
This process also had a big impact on the client’s access to justice because data gathered at the police station is used not just for inception, but also for the client’s defence in the hours, days and months to follow.
Our challenge was to use FormShare software to streamline and automate as much work as possible. We needed to reduce costs and improve data quality and security. At the same time, we wanted to create a process so simple, compliant and secure that even the most technophobic lawyer would instantly see the benefits and use it.