Last month’s SIAA OnDemand Conference saw the launch of RocketLawyer’s ‘web-based law office’ – a service that may prove to be a useful DIY legal utility for freelancers, web workers and startups.
RocketLawyer is essentially a library of legal forms – covering the spectrum of business and corporate law, ranging from wills, pre-nups and leases to NDAs, employment contracts and incorporation agreements – that enables legal advice and execution to be delivered just as web applications enabled software to be delivered as a service. At its heart, the forms are simply a vehicle for connecting lawyers to clients, but the self-service element allows for a large part of the costs incurred to be mimised as lawyers are only required for the final review stage.
It’s this latter review stage that’s perhaps most intriguing. Most users wishing to execute legal agreements will take some time to research an area and perhaps understand many of the principles and necessary steps. However, selecting a lawyer for final completion is usually driven by word of mouth. In an online service such as RocketLawyer.com, selecting from the available lawyers is perhaps harder to accomplish.
RocketLawyer’s offline equivalents – packs of legal forms – have been available for many years from major retailers, but perhaps simply transposing them to a digital environment is not enough. The real value of such a service isn’t availability of the forms, but the legal expertise behind them…the lawyers.
Perhaps what’s necessary is an eBay feedback score style ‘reputation’ metric for digitally-available lawyers, maybe coupled with a social network, helping users find trusted attorneys and review testimonials, but also enabling lawyers to use successful clients for introductions.
There’s some obvious, evident value in something like RocketLawyer, but perhaps a sprinkling of Web 2.0 magic could help deliver real, trusted value to lawyers and their clients.