Unless you’re something of a legal eagle -- or married to one -- you’re probably going to need some advice from a lawyer at some point. The trouble is, paying a pricey attorney may not be in the budget. For these cash-strapped entrepreneurs, online legal-form services such as LegalZoom and FreeAdvice offer to pick up where traditional attorneys leave off.
Taking note of the uptick in legal-form usage, startups like Rocket Lawyer are seeing fresh investor interest. Last week, the San Francisco-based online legal service announced $18.5 million in new funding led by August Capital with Google Ventures and Investor Growth Capital.
Rocket Lawyer provides a solid combination of do-it-yourself online legal forms, legal help content and referrals to actual lawyers. We use this service in my digital content company to share, draft and revise legal agreements. Along with its new round of cash, the company recently made several upgrades, including a new service called Rocket Lawyer On Call.
To get a pulse on why investors like this operation, we took the improved Rocket Lawyer for a test spin.
What it is: Rocket Lawyer is a legal resource that attempts to create and manage legal documents. It is based on a series of free, interactive legal templates that can be adapted to your company’s specific legal needs. Rocket Lawyer also lets users draft, save and share legal documents using the service.
For more advanced legal conundrums -- such as translating lengthy insurance contracts into plain English or penning multi-vendor outsourcing agreements -- there is a subscription fee. Once you've signed up for the subscription service, you can submit documents for review by Rocket Lawyer-affiliated attorneys and get access to free phone consultations, discounted hourly fees and flat rates for legal filings such as name changes or corporate restructuring.
Discounted subscriptions start at $9.99 per month for a year-long personal legal plan and $24.99 per month for a business legal plan.
Why you might like it: Rocket Lawyer is jam-packed with legal tools and features that make drafting sophisticated legal documents a cinch, without much professional legal help. And overall, the new On Call feature provides added value. We found that it referred us to what appeared to be reasonably qualified attorneys much more efficiently than the previous methods for brokering that relationship.
More importantly, Rocket lawyer documents have not led to any disputes at my firm in the more than two years I've used the service. And I don’t expect that to change.
Why you might not like it: The service has a subtle but powerful limitation: It is not clear who employs the lawyer Rocket Lawyer refers you to. Yes, you and your clients or business partners can create sophisticated, legally binding documents. But when the virtually summoned lawyer appears, so does an eerie question: From what perspective is this virtual lawyer offering advice? The business owner? The employee? The client? As Rocket Lawyer’s real lawyers may have varied allegiances, utilizing their services may turn out to be less valuable than you might expect. Moreover, I found that documents I created on my own from the free service to be perfectly serviceable -- making the paid service not all that useful.
What to do: By all means, if you are looking to save a ton of money on legal services, use Rocket Lawyer. You will find it fast, easy and vastly cheaper than dealing with traditional legal services. Just don’t be surprised if you start using Rocket Lawyer’s free documents directly and stop paying for the full service entirely.
Have you found Rocket Lawyer or other online legal-form providers helpful for running your business? If so, let us know how in the comments section.