Legal Startups Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services
With the price of traditional legal services out of reach for the majority of Americans, and the demand for old (expensive) models of providing legal services going down, a host of new tech start-ups are proposing ways to make it cheaper and more efficient to provide and access legal services. Bob Ambrogi calls it a time of unprecedented innovation in legal technology. The number of legal startups is projected to grow even faster in 2014. Here is a small sample:
Docstoc – An electronic document repository providing professional, financial and legal documents for the business community.
FindACase – A free service offered by VersusLaw, FindACase provides free access to federal and state cases, specifically targeted at the general public to help lay users understand a legal issue before they consult an attorney.
Lawful.ly – Open-source, plain language annotations of legal documents, statutes, and cases.
LegalYou – Launched by a Florida law firm to extend legal services to modest-means litigants, LegalYou offers free instruction on the law and access to legal forms, and sells unbundled legal services through monthly memberships.
LegalZoom – Offers low-cost legal forms online in the areas of small business, wills & trusts, and personal & family, trademarks & IP, taxes, etc.
Massachusetts Subpoena Services – The Massachusetts Notary Public and Legal Support Services can issue summons and subpoenas for you based on information you put into their online form.
Nolo – Began publishing do-it-yourself legal guides for consumers and small businesses in 1971. Also offers online forms, software, and eGuides, as well as a lawyer referral service.
PlainSite – Aims to provide non-lawyers (and lawyers) easy-to-navigate access to the entire American legal system, including public records from agencies, patent applications, corporate profiles, and more public federal and state case dockets than any other site on the Internet. Users can access all public information on the site for free. For a modest subscription fee — $9.99/month for non-lawyers and $99/month for lawyers — users can also access the site’s non-public analytic data. Nifty features include the ability to search for cases by case title in the Google-like search box; an enhanced view of each cases’s docket; statistics on law firms’ and lawyers’ historical activity; an attorney finder to help potential clients find lawyers based on their past caseloads; and Motion Sensor, which allows the user to see how a given judge or lawyer has behaved with regard to certain kinds of motions in the past.
Responsive Law – Educates consumers about the law, their legal rights, and legal procedure.
Rocket Lawyer – LegalZoom competitor that offers assistance with legal forms for consumers and small businesses, in areas like family, estate planning, landlord-tenant, bankruptcy, personal injury, incorporation, business operations, and IP. Offers referrals for lawyers to provide legal services at pre-negotiated rates.
Newer startups are trying to take legal assistance a step beyond traditional stalwarts like LegalZoom by simplifying and streamlining the drafting of custom legal forms:
Clerky – Helps start-ups quickly complete necessary legal work (e.g., incorporation, employee documents, NDAs, etc.) with a forms library, automatic document assembly, online signature capabilities, and more.
Shake – Mobile app that generates contracts (e.g., related to freelancing, confidentiality, buying/selling, renting, and loaning money) based on answers you give to questions it asks.
If you don’t want to do it yourself . . .
Finding Legal Services
Daily General Counsel – A Brookline, Mass., startup whose lawyers play the role of in-house counsel for a day, solving as many problems as they can in eight hours for a flat fee of $1,500.
Lawdingo – Offers a low-cost way for people to consult with lawyers online. Users can search and browse through attorney profiles and then schedule an appointment or speak to them right then by phone. For lawyers, it is a convenient way to get clients from a wider legal market, on their schedule. Lawyers pay a flat subscription fee to be listed on the site. (Watch Lawdingo’s humorous promotional video here.)
LawHelp.org – “Helps people of low and moderate incomes find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights and forms to help them with their legal problems.”
LawPal – Online platform to find and collaborate with veteran start-up lawyers at fixed rates.
LawyerCams.com – A lawyer-listing service with a special focus on connecting users to lawyers’ social media. Clients can find lawyers by location or practice area, and can use the site for online meetings with lawyers via Google+ Hangouts.
LawZam – A lawyer-listing service that provides potential clients with free face-t0-face consultation with a lawyer via videoconferencing. Clients can search for lawyers by zip code and practice area.
Legal Hero – Launched in beta in late 2014, Legal Hero provides vetted lawyers for small businesses at affordable, fixed prices. Services cover common areas like intellectual property, real estate, employment, and immigration law. Clients can track the status of their project on Legal Hero’s dashboard, and aren’t charged until the project is complete.
Leverage-a-Lawyer – Low-cost trademark services for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
LexSpot – Founded in 2012 in Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, LexSpot is “an online marketplace where you can learn about the immigration options available to you and receive price quotes from qualified attorneys based on the details of your case.”
MyLawsuit.com – A competitive marketplace for contingency fee tort lawsuits.
PlainLegal – Businesses and startups can describe a legal issue in plain English on the PlainLegal site and be connected to a database of vetted lawyers who can help with that legal issue. The business and lawyer can then work together through PlainLegal‘s workflow tools, and the business can choose to pay the lawyer through PlainLegal‘s platform.
Priori Legal – Online platform that connects small businesses in the NYC area with vetted, fixed-fee lawyers.
PUSHTOSTART – Experienced startup lawyers on “speed dial” for startups and entrepreneurs at a flat annual fee. Offices in Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Brooklyn.
UpCounsel – Customers with small business legal needs can post jobs on this site for lawyers to bid on. Customers can also track their matters and pay for services on the site.
Wevorce – Uses mediation and technology to make divorce less adversarial and costly. Technology automates the more common steps of the process so that Wevorce lawyers can focus on what is unique about each divorce. Read more here.
Also see Nolo, PlainSite, and Rocket Lawyer, above.
Managing Your Lawyer
Simple Legal – Founded in May 2013, Simple Legal helps companies track and manage their legal bills.
Managing Your Practice
Some of the most popular cloud-based practice management platforms are Clio, Rocket Matter, and MyCase. These platforms provide similar functionalities, helping lawyers manage time, billing, accounting, calendaring, documents, online payments, and client communications through a client portal. See this article for helpful comparisons of the respective strengths of Clio, Rocket Matter, and MyCase.
Court Dial – Running late to a hearing? Forget your courtroom number? This app provides a quick and easy way to dial any courtroom in the country.
DirectLaw – Provides a virtual law firm platform to law firms to enable them to offer legal services online, including a secure client portal. Integrates with Clio.
ERM Legal Solutions – Allows lawyers to manage and budget legal matters, including assigning tasks, prioritizing individuals’ workloads, tracking progress, and discerning availability of the firm’s resources.
Building a Document Library
Docracy – Free database of many different types of templates, contracts, releases, non-disclosure agreements, and nearly any other type of legal document that a lawyer might want. Documents are organized by industry or purpose. Lawyers can post documents of their own to be accessed by others, a valuable tool to help them network, build their reputation, and market themselves to potential clients. Docracy also offers a free document signing feature and allows the user to track the status of a document through a “waiting for me,” or for others, “executed” or “cancelled” status.
Automating Document Production
Brightleaf – Helps law firms automate document production.
CaseRails – Helps lawyers perfectly format legal documents in less time by automating the input of client- and court-specific information, the adjusting of fonts and margins, tabbing, etc.
Bestlaw – Bestlaw is a free browser extension that makes it easier to do research on Westlaw or Lexis. The browser allows you to create perfect Bluebook citations with one click, collapse and expand statutory sections, automatically create a clickable table of contents for any document, and read documents in a clean readable view, among other things.
BlueLine – Speeds up proofreading or “cite checking” a legal brief by taking a piece of legal writing, automatically turning all the citation into hyperlinks, and color coding the quotes according to accuracy. BlueLine‘s process also allows lawyers to immediately spot citation problems in the submissions of opposing counsel.
See more at the Document Production page.
Casemaker – A free or low-cost legal research service that provides statutory law; state and federal codes with notations concerning future changes; federal, bankruptcy, and state case law (going back 100 years); case summaries; and case citation services. Research can be tracked by client. Casemaker’s CiteCheck allows users to upload a document to determine if the case citations are still good law. CaseCheck allows the user to click a link directly to the language of any negative treatment of the case used as a citation. CasemakerDigest provides summaries of recent cases by email or RSS feed. Some states and local bar associations offer a combination of Casemaker’s services free to members; otherwise, services range from around $200 to $1,000 annually. A free mobile app of the Casemaker service can be downloaded for an iPhone, Android or tablet.
Casetext – “We’re making all the world’s laws free and understandable.” Users of the site can contribute to the site by adding their own annotations, linking to other sources, and upvoting useful sources. Contributors are credited for their work, and they receive reputation points based on how many upvotes or downvotes they get. An especially useful feature of this site is the ability to “follow” cases of interest to you, in a simple format.
CourtListener – Free database of federal and state court opinion; allows you to create case alerts to track developments on cases.
Judicata – “Judicata is mapping the legal genome—i.e. using highly specialized case law parsing and algorithmically assisted human review to turn unstructured court opinions into structured data,” according to their CrunchBase profile.
Justia – Free case law, codes, and regulations.
Lawpolis – A collaborative professional networking and legal research site by lawyers for lawyers. Lawyers can find and share practical how-to guides, forms, templates, examples, and more.
Mootus – A forum for posting and answering legal research questions, Mootus shut down in March 2016 after three years in operation.
PacerPro – Logs onto PACER and collects and stores copies of records from the 94 U.S. District Court sites so they can be more easily shared with others. Also provides access to same-day filings by accessing court records directly. See more at the Accessing Court Records page.
Ravel Law – What sets this legal research site apart is that it provides captures data (e.g., court, date, precedent) related to legal research documents and presents them in a visual graphic form that makes it easy to zero in on influential and outlier cases.
See more at the Research Tools page.
Leverage – A web-based app that automates much of the administrative work of mass actions, makinglawsuits that previously would not have been now economically viable for more law firms. Leverage handles client sign-ups, initial interviews, document requests, communication and more.
Modus – Provides litigation support in all phases of the electronic discovery process. Fixed-fee professional service provider.
SmartRules – Tell SmartRules what you’re doing (e.g., filing a Motion to Compel in Los Angeles Superior Court) and SmartRules will unite all relevant rules from all sources and distill them into a simple (task- and jurisdiction-specific) guide. SmartRules also provides expert commentary and is updated daily.
DiligenceEngine – Upload contracts to the software and review in seconds, search for specific provisions.
eBrevia – Uses artificial intelligence technology developed at Columbia University to quickly peruse and summarize scanned legal documents, allowing lawyers and businesses to drastically reduce the time it takes to do due diligence and manage and draft documents. See more on the Document Production page.
Paper Software – Makes it easy to navigate through, search, edit, add cross-references to, review, and negotiate contracts.
xRef – Plugs into to Microsoft Word and automatically checks for drafting errors, such as capitalized terms that have not been set up as defined terms, words that have been set up as defined terms but never used, duplicate definitions, etc.
Outsourcing Legal Help
Axiom Law – A high-priced placement firm assigning lawyers to work for in-house General Counsel, Axiom also does “projects” directly for General Counsel of major Fortune 500 corporations.
Black Letter Discovery – Provides document review solutions to law firms and corporations nationwide. Services include legal staffing, project management, and review facilities.
Cadence Counsel – Connects law firms with experienced, vetted legal professionals (including solo practitioners) to supplement their high-end practice on a variable basis.
Custom Counsel – Network of experienced freelance lawyers who work on a project basis for solo practitioners, law firms, and legal departments.
Dynamix Legal – Helps in-house counsel optimize legal spending by providing low-cost contract legal assistance; also helps in-house counsel improve the cost-efficiency of all their legal processes.
Intermix Legal Group – “A network of experienced freelance attorneys available for on-demand legal projects to solo practitioners, law firms, and corporate legal departments, at a fraction of the cost of hiring salaried attorneys.”
Novus Law – Reviews, manages and analyzes documents for large-scale litigation.
- Callum Borchers, “Startup plays role of in-house lawyer for a day,” The Boston Globe, Jan. 20, 2014.
- Scott Kirsner, “Tech start-ups take on tough customers: Lawyers,” The Boston Globe, Sept. 1, 2013.
- Joshua Kubicki, “The law sector continues to ripen for disruption,” Tech Cocktail, Nov. 21, 2013.
- Lauren Landry, “Legal Hero launches out of beta to connect small businesses with top-notch lawyers,” BostInno, Nov. 5, 2014.
Last edited: April 1, 2016