To make the work of the lawyers more interesting and, above all, to help clients better, faster, more transparently and more cost-effectively, the law firm Delissen Martens from The Hague is experimenting with legal tech. That fits well with the company, where innovation, transparency and collaboration are central. Together with Mark van Dorp, CEO of Adapting, and the PaaS solution AdaptingLegal, we are working on (process) automation.
“New players are constantly entering the market”, says Jeroen Maas, partner at Delissen Martens and lawyer with excessive interest and aptitude for technology and innovation. “These are not by definition lawyers, but for example (legal) tech start-ups. They compete with what we do. I think we as lawyers should ask ourselves how special it is what we do. And whether we charge realistic prices for our work. I personally think that the legal profession can work in a much more structured way. That has so many advantages, for us and for our client.”
In essence, many legal procedures are very similar, he says. “In any case, they mostly follow the same steps. At a certain point I started to get annoyed by the red tape surrounding a legal procedure. Sending order confirmations and payment reminders… It’s part of our job, but I want to spend as little time as possible with it. So, I started looking for ways to organize processes more efficiently. For example, by using certain templates and standard texts. At a certain point I thought that was no longer enough. I wanted to achieve greater efficiency with automation.”
Start with one process
Fortunately, Jeroen came across AdaptingLegal in 2019, the PaaS solution for smart legal intake, workflow automation and document assembly. Jeroen: “I supervise all kinds of applications, but to start with automation I have chosen – in consultation with Mark – one specific procedure from migration law: applying for a provisional residence permit (MVV) for a partner, child, or partner. and child.”
If you want to automate very specific (legal) processes, there is some work involved. “It’s not simply a matter of installing software and you’re done. You must map out your processes yourself. And think about what exactly you want to achieve with a tool. In the case of AdaptingLegal, the first step was to create a decision tree. And that was immediately the most difficult, I must say”, Jeroen looks back.
The decision tree and the MVP
Together with Mark, he took a close look at the entire customer journey. “What conditions must someone meet to start a business at all? What steps do we go through with a client? What information and documents must a client provide us with? What questions should we ask as lawyers? How should we formulate those questions in an online environment, so that everything is bite-sized and clear? And what are the different possible answers and scenarios that follow? Mark has a lot of experience in that, especially in the legal sector, and he really helped me with that.”
“What I liked is that at a certain point Mark just put everything in AdaptingLegal in advance,” says Jeroen. “A decision tree is a drawing with all kinds of branches, which is not easy for everyone to grasp. That first custom draft version in AdaptingLegal – the minimum viable product, or MVP – made our preliminary work more visual and tangible. So that I could see and feel it too. I was able to go through the steps myself once. This also provides insight, for example into whether you have not forgotten a step in the process. It also helped me to explain the project to the management.”
To the other side
At the end of 2021, after a period of intensive thinking, designing, building and testing, the mvv-gezinsereniging.nl website went online. “The website contains a lot of – free – information about migration law, family reunification and the rules and procedures for admission and residence of partners and/or children in the Netherlands. Clients can also start a business directly via this website. We have deliberately opted for a separate URL, separate from Delissen Martens. People can just find us through Google. And because much of the process can be controlled remotely, we can help people across the country.”
According to Jeroen, the client ‘just wants to go to the other side’. “Someone hires a lawyer to achieve a certain goal. Preferably as fast and as simple as possible. In this case, therefore, apply for a temporary residence permit for a partner and/or child. And the new website helps with that. By directly answering a few questions online, they find out whether they qualify for this procedure at all. And if so, they can start a business with the push of a button. Then they create their own profile in our own secure environment of AdaptingLegal, they immediately pay the invoice and they receive an overview of which documents they have to submit. They can upload it directly. Very easy.”
Cheaper, without loss of quality
Because the intake and the first steps of the process are automatic and digital and the debtor risk is eliminated through prepayment, Delissen Martens can charge a much lower price than competitors. Without compromising the quality of service. This makes the choice easy for the client. “On the basis of the documents supplied, AdaptingLegal can often already prepare a draft letter for the MVV application. I use that as a basis for the pieces I make. I can then upload it again in the client’s personal account. Ultimately, I would think it would be cool if AdaptingLegal really started to work as a bridge to the IND. So that we can immediately supply everything digitally and the IND can also provide feedback via the same system about the assessment of the application.”
Jeroen is convinced that many more procedures lend themselves to automation with AdaptingLegal. The idea is that this efficiency drive will make the work of lawyers more interesting. “I try to take the noise off the line, so that we have more time to really dive into the content. And for customer contact. Because the fact that we digitize part of our process does not mean – rather not even – that we as a law firm will become an impregnable fortress. Everyone can continue to email, call or visit me, if that’s more convenient. Please even. People sometimes say: technology makes lawyers less important. I strongly dispute that. It helps us to keep an overview and to better understand the client and his or her problem.”