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:
Lawful.ly – Open-source, plain language annotations of legal documents, statutes, and cases.
LegalZoom - Offers low-cost legal forms online in the areas of small business, wills & trusts, and personal & family, trademarks & IP, taxes, etc.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
DiligenceEngine – Upload contracts to the software and review in seconds, search for specific provisions.
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.
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 online legal research.
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 - For $10, you can post a legal research question to other users of the site (law students and lawyers), who post case law and answers in response to your legal issue. For free, you also have access to all active issues posted by others and can view and contribute answers to them.
See more at the Research Tools page.
Outsourcing Legal Help
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.”