Family lawyers have historically left co-parenting applications as a choice for clients. However, modern divorce and co-parenting apps can benefit lawyers as much as clients. Here are four reasons why you should care that your client uses an app designed for divorce.
By Jessica Hoffmann, lawyer and CEO
Traditionally, communication applications that help couples going through divorce or co-parenting were thought of as tools for the couples themselves and often suggested for use at the conclusion of a case. Over time, more clients have been struggling with communication during the divorce or custody battles and have turned to their lawyers for assistance. In those cases, lawyers will suggest using an application or, in more extreme circumstances, make the request of the court to order its use.
These approaches miss the fact that these applications are helpful to the family lawyers themselves as well as to clients right from the start of the case. Keep reading to see why you should be recommending use at the outset of every case to eliminate headaches for you and your client and thus have more successful outcomes, as well as gain more business. Asking clients to use divorce and co-parenting apps from the beginning of the legal process is the right thing to do – and they will likely be looking to you for guidance regarding which is the right app to use.
4 Reasons Why Divorce & Co-Parenting Apps Benefit Lawyers
1. A Good Divorce & Co-Parenting App is a No-Cost Marketing Advantage
Clients often call or meet with multiple attorneys during their selection process. Discussing a tool like this is not common at the outset of a case and can be a differentiator. The clients may not even realize that other lawyers they spoke with have the same access to the tools you mention. You can discuss the advantages (discussed in more detail below) of these tools and highlight how they could save money for the client.
- More and More Clients will Expect Use of Technology
According to the US Census Bureau, 57% of co-parents are under 38. That age group is often more comfortable with technology than we as lawyers are. They see the benefits of how technology can make their lives easier, and the lawyers that put that to use will be more likely to attract and retain clients. Apps are everywhere. Smartphones are in everyone’s hands. They are a common part of life and communication. We as attorneys should embrace this reality and take advantage of these tools to enhance our representation of our clients.
- Clients are Referral Sources for Lawyers
The better the client experience the more likely they will send others your way. Additionally, close to 1/3 of cases go back for a modification or enforcement action. Some applications allow you to maintain connection with the client and may improve your chances to pick up the modification case down the road and put you in a better position to be successful. How? Keep reading…
2. A Quality App can Improve Results for Clients
- Save Time and Money
Save their time sending you information, such as text message correspondence (see below). Save your time dealing with receiving those messages outside your normal evidence collection mechanisms. This ultimately results in money saved for your client.
- Be Prepared
All texts between the parties are available for their lawyer in real-time as the communication is happening on the lawyer’s secure portal. Expenses are tracked from the outset – easier for enforcement or demonstrative exhibits (how many doctor appointments there were, how much was paid for each, etc.). These tools help automate preparation and bring peace of mind to the busy practitioner that nothing was missed.
3. Specific App Features can Eliminate Headaches for You
- Stop Drowning in Text Message Screenshots and Stressing about How to Properly Store Them
Text message is quickly becoming the go-to communication method for divorcing and co-parenting couples. This is how they are already communicating in their relationship. By using a tool that tracks actual text messages, it makes your clients’ lives easier (which mentioned above will improve your service for them and increase the chances they will refer additional business to you). Because their messages are being tracked automatically, it also eliminates their need to take numerous screenshots of their conversations and text or email them to you – making your life easier.
If a client has a need for a longer message, they can use the in-app message feature for those communications. This can still allow access or views for the lawyer to easily review communication and print them for use in evidence.
- Have Clients Provide Documents Securely
Clients often are not organized and you can help them. Pictures, videos, audio recordings, and documents like tax returns can all be uploaded and shared. This promotes efficiency by being able to do it just once and provides clients the convenience of being able to access the documents remotely on their mobile device.
This is likely going to be something that adds work for your client. They will be giving or receiving reimbursements at some point in time. Either way, this process is in addition to paying their own bills. Using a tool can keep them organized right from the beginning. It also cuts down on unnecessary communication about a tricky topic. The tool also saves time and expenses if enforcement of the court order becomes necessary because you have access and can download the Excel payment file. This can save you time and money for those enforcement actions by helping create the summary exhibits related to expenses.
Keeping track of custody arrangements and activities starts even during the divorce. A tool makes all of this easier to track and easier to enforce. Products that sync with your client’s already established calendar promote convenience for the client and help to avoid arguments about unclear responsibilities and possession schedules brought on by orders difficult for a layperson to easily understand.
4. You have a Duty to Provide Appropriate Guidance to Your Clients
Anticipating issues clients are going to have is better than waiting for things to get out of hand. If they are dealing with someone who may be a narcissist, dishonest, and/or difficult to deal with then they need to protect themselves. Many lawyers advise clients not to communicate via phone and limit communication to writing. Similarly, maintaining written communication that is easy to monitor, review, and use in evidence is the best advice you can give.
Why wait to advise clients to use a communication tool until mediation or decree when many of the hot button issues have resolved or only after communication is breaking down? Some of the most detrimental communication occurs in the midst of the divorce or custody battle. Having communication tracked and stored in a manner that can’t be altered can be a deterrent to bad behavior. Even if it isn’t, the communication is then very easily and cost-effectively used in court. Protect your client’s information now. Don’t wait until it is too late.
Jessica Hoffmann is the Founder and CEO of FamilyDocket, a software application that helps family law attorneys and their clients automatically track and aggregate text messages, maintain expense reimbursement requests, and securely store and access documents. She is also a lawyer, former law firm COO, and currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer of a large national law firm. www.familydocket.com
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