The legal consumer watchdog is preparing to put do-it-yourself online divorce documents under the spotlight in new research.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel wants to assess the risks and challenges of an increasing trend for people to access legal services online.

A number of law firms include basic documents as part of their service, while new entrants from the US such as Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom base their business models on creating legal documents for individuals and small businesses.

The consumer panel and Legal Services Board have now jointly commissioned research and plan to interview consumers for first-hand experience of the quality of service. The study will report in the summer.

‘We see that many consumers are attracted by the wider choice, convenience, speed and cost benefits of such approaches, although we also foresee potential risks such as unclear regulatory boundaries and privacy,’ said a panel spokesman.

‘While many consumers continue to seek traditional offline services, the online market is starting to attract a wider share of the legal market.’

Meanwhile, Richard Cohen, chairman of the legal IT document company Epoq, said traditional firms must improve the way they use technology.

Cohen, who has worked with alternative business structures such as Admiral and the AA, as well as around 200 law firms, told a conference last week solicitors feel ‘threatened’ by advances in IT.

‘Law firms are in danger of being left behind,’ Cohen told the Westminster Legal Policy Forum. ‘They find document technology very threatening as in some cases it can do it better than them.’