Pioneer hits out at ‘costly, complex’ law sector

THE legal sector is “overly expensive, overly complex and dominated by high-cost providers”, according to Silicon Valley entrepreneur Charley Moore, who founded fast-growing online legal services firm Rocket Lawyer.

Charley Moore, founder of Rocket Lawyer

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Mr Moore said that small businesses and consumers “desperately need a more affordable way to get legal help”.

He said his comments referred to the legal sector generally, but are also relevant to the UK mar-ket.

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San Francisco-headquartered Rocket Lawyer, which is backed by Google Ventures, provides businesses and families with ‘easy-to-use’ legal documents online and access to specialist lawyers.

Rocket Lawyer was included in Inc’s list of the fastest-growing companies in the United States in 2012, with revenues of $14.2m.

Mr Moore said that the Legal Services Act, which brought in alternative business structures allowing non-lawyers to invest in law firms for the first time, has seen the UK go further than many other places in the world towards liberalising the practice of law.

“That’s a very good thing”, said Mr Moore. But he suggested that more change is needed.

“We know our children are not going to be using paper documents any more than they are going to be using paper textbooks.

“They are going to be using electronic legal documents... so what the legal profession has to do is to have new ways of practice that embrace the fact that, so for example, a computer log of an electronic signature leaves better evidentiary trail than handwriting experts, which is actually quite medieval when you think about it.”

He said there will be very little room to practise paper-based legal systems in the future.

Lawyer Mr Moore started looking at how the internet could transform the practice of law around seven years ago. This led to the setting up of Rocket Lawyer five years ago.

“We have been able to grow into the most widely used legal service in the world with more than 30 million people a year using the service and a year ago we launched Rocket Lawyer in the UK, really with one mission: to make law affordable and simple for everybody.

“In order to do that we are using technology, we are leveraging the fact that online lawyers and clients are all working with the same operating system now, which is the internet protocol, and we are all connected to the same network via whatever device, mobile phone, tablet, PC, and Rocket Lawyer is taking advantage, I think, in a unique way.”

Mr Moore was in London this week after speaking at Le Web Paris, a tech conference for start-ups and web entrepreneurs.

Rocket Lawyer has its UK operation based at Tech City in London.

It is headed up by vice president and general manager Mark Edwards.

The UK office employs around a dozen people.

Mr Edwards said that the UK legal market is the biggest outside of the US. The legal sector in Leeds is recognised as second only to London in the UK.

Speaking about the UK market, Mr Edwards said: “Half a million new businesses were created this year... there’s also lots of new tech clusters starting up all over the country, there is one in Leeds as well, and these small businesses need access to the law.

“The law powers their business.” He said that “quite a lot” of small businesses are afraid of approaching lawyers.

But Mr Moore added: “What has been really great to see is how many innovative lawyers there are in places like Leeds.

“Everywhere when you look at your local area the consumer has got a smartphone now, the consumer has a tablet so when you start a new business in Leeds you are looking for lawyers who work the way you do, which means using technology.”

“We know from surveying users (small businesses) that they get put off getting legal advice because of the cost, and they put off putting things in writing, doing proper record keeping, proper compliance because of the expense.”