Advances in interactive legal documents

by evolvedlegal on April 30, 2012

Tesco law – yes we have all heard of the threat to law firms from big companies with massive budgets and business know how but is there a bigger threat being largely overlooked ?

The thing about legal services in general for things like wills, conveyancing, employment law and many other areas is that the profit margins are already not that high. Attempts have been made previously, by some big law firms, to commoditise these services, using paralegals and economies of scale, and in most cases, those attempts have ended in failure and withdrawal from the bulk market. the fact is that legal services are complicated and client’s demands are high. Wherever the impression has come from, a significant proportion of the public seem to believe that conveyancing and other legal services are simple processes which are relatively cheap. when problems arise or transactions do not move very quickly, clients can become very difficult and demanding, and this all takes time. Few conveyancing transactions are simple and profits are very low if not non-existent in many cases.

Aside from the difficulty of making big profit for possible entrants to the legal market, perhaps the bigger risk comes from technology. the fact is that clearly there are better ways for delivering legal documents than the traditional method. Contracts such as shareholder agreements are generally expensive if you go to a solicitor, often in excess of £1,000.00 plus VAT. whilst these types of documents are clearly very important for a business, many small businesses, especially at their nascent stage, simply can’t afford that kind of fee. This creates a big vacuum, the market for the more than 5 million small businesses per year.

This gap in the market is likely to be filled by one or more of the new breed of legal technology companies. The leaders in this sector are Epoq, well known in the Uk, and Legalzoom, who are big players in the US and who have announced they will enter the UK market.

Epoq have a number of offerings, and are about to fully launch their latest offering, which will assist consumers on areas like power of attorney, divorce, wills and probate and small business with a range of interactive documents for business.

Lawyers who are prepared to adapt can already use Epoq’s technology on their own websites, via the Directlaw service also provided by Epoq. It appears that the company have got somewhat frustrated in dealing with law firms, many of whom have a website which is invisible in the search engines and are therefore struggling to get sufficient visitors to turn into buyers, consequently, it seems that Epoq have decided to go direct to the public.

In summary, whilst there is clearly a threat to law firms from so-called tesco law, the bigger threat to the many services solicitors provide in terms of legal contracts and documents may come from niche technology suppliers.

What do you think ?

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