Closing a deal with a handshake is great, except for the fact that it’s no more than that — a handshake, not a valid contract. On the other hand, schlepping off to see a lawyer is slow and often costs more money than the deal is worth.
That’s why products like Shake are intriguing: it’s a suite of off-the-shelf legal agreements covering things like NDAs or freelance work agreements that users can create right from their mobile phone.
Shake, which has been around since 2012, is now for the first time offering a premium version of its product in the hopes that power users will pay $10/month in return for new features, including custom logos, payment notifications and syncing contracts to Dropbox.
In recent months, some well-known companies like Twitter, Vice Media and the coding hub General Assembly have been testing the pro version of the product.
Shake CEO Abe Geiger told me the contracts are especially popular with media agencies, who often have to obtain on-the-spot liability releases, and with freelancers and small businesses.
Geiger said that Shake has so far been used by 140,000 customers but is growing quickly, and that he hopes that the percentage of customers who switch to the paid product will exceed the two to four percent rate that is typical for so-called freemium businesses.
I gave the product a try by creating a fictional non-disclosure agreement for ARod and the Yankees, and it worked as advertised. The signed contract, created in under a minute based on boilerplate, was quickly sent to my email on completion:
Shake, which for a long time was an exclusively mobile platform (unusual for a legal tech company), has only recently added the ability to create documents on the web.
There is, of course, the question of how well these documents would hold up in court. Geiger said a few clients have told him they used the Shake agreements as the basis for small court claims, but none have yet been subject to a court decision.
But for now there’s no reason to think the Shake online agreements wouldn’t do the same job as the paper do-it-yourself templates that have existed for decades. And as lawyers and business people are aware, the very act of performing a legal formality is usually enough to persuade people to heed obligations in the first place.
New York-based Shake’s founders also include Jon Steinberg of BuzzFeed reknown, and Jared Grusd, the General Counsel of Spotify.