Getting legal work done has historically been a major financial impost for small business owners but recent years have seen the emergence of a clutch of online disruptors that promise to provide similar services for less.
So who’re some of the new kids on the legal block and what do they offer?
LegalVision is an online firm which provides legal assistance, advice and free access to a plethora of documents commonly required by companies – think general business agreements, employment contracts and the like.
Clients can customise these and access a team of in-house lawyers who perform work for a fixed price – typically around a third of cost of a traditional bricks and mortar firm, according to founder Lachlan McKnight.
Fellow newbie LawPath offers access to a similar stash of documents for a range of personal and business purposes. It allows clients to post legal questions and receive responses and offers a free-30 minute consultation from one of the 500+ specialist lawyers who subscribe to the site.
Rob Price, founder of the Sydney health education startup Compact Health, has been a satisfied client of LegalVision for over a year.
I’ve found there to be very few disadvantages engaging with a predominately online offering.
“I’ve found there to be very few disadvantages engaging with a predominately online offering,” Price says.
“These days there’s very little that can’t be successfully communicated using this model. In fact, the efficiencies of this approach can outweigh any benefits of face to face meetings for the majority of legal work that is required running a small to medium-sized business.
“Having spent many years engaging with more traditional offerings, I believe this is clearly the way of the future in this space.”
Snedden Hall and Gallop senior associate Nick Tebbey agrees the disruptors can provide an effective service, particularly for startup owners who need to keep their costs down.
“But the caution with these online services is the same as the caution for using a will kit from the post office,” Tebbey says.
“If your matter is simple and without too much complication then a cookie cutter approach may suit.”
For more complex matters, an ongoing relationship with a professional who’s au fait with your business and its history can be invaluable.
For more complex matters, an ongoing relationship with a professional who’s au fait with your business and its history can be invaluable, Tebbey points out.
“The true value of a lawyer, and the reason why these online disruptors can only go so far, is that a lawyer can be flexible and responsive,” he says.
“Nothing bests having a lawyer who understands their client and can provide proactive legal advice and assistance.”
Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.