An app for SMEs to diagnose and get guidance on their legal problems has now launched a consumer version that helps users find and book a lawyer, and is integrated with government services.
Legal Utopia assists users in identifying more than 400,000 everyday legal problems through its Legal Checker function, and provides more than 5,000 legal documents, 24,000 FAQs and 10,000 pages of legal guidance.
It also tracks how the law and guidance are changing on Covid and Brexit, updated weekly.
Launched in 2017, Legal Utopia had its ‘MVP’ (minimum viable product) launch last year for SMEs – with pro bono support from top law firms Mishcon de Reya, Baker McKenzie, and Dentons – and it ramping up now on the back of a £45,500 grant from government agency Innovate UK.
It employs 20 staff and is recruiting a further 10.
Registration is free and business can subscribe for £60 a year, while consumers pay either £60 a year or £9.99 a month. Alternatively they can buy credits for 99p.
However, parts of the service are free to all: Find-A-Lawyer, ‘Free Docs’, government services, any legal problem which qualifies for civil legal aid, and the Covid Support and Brexit Support sections.
The developers believe Legal Utopia is the first business to enable users to access online government services in-app, such as money claims, company incorporation, benefits appeals, and divorce petitions.
The ‘Find-A-Lawyer’ allows a geographical search of all 10,030 solicitors’ firms, with “custom recommendations” for subscribers.
The ‘Free Docs’ repository includes official forms as well as legal document templates and agreements.
From early summer users will be able to book an appointment with a lawyer through the app. Firms will need to have an annual membership to ‘list’ on the user booking and video-conferencing service. Costing £150 for firms and £99 for freelance solicitors, this allows for listing two lawyers in multiple practice areas.
A hundred firms will be able to take out a premium membership costing £499, allowing for 10 listings.
Legal Utopia has introduced a corporate membership option as well, so that employers, insurers, banks and others can provide access to the app as benefit to staff and customers.
The company said it has “re-trained” its machine learning technology, which uses natural language processing, and that it can now identify the nature of a legal problem after the user inputs 100 words, rather than 150 previously.
Founder Fraser Matcham, whose job title is chief problem solver, said: “This brings something new to the lawtech sector in these uncertain times. The new funding and investment have ensured that we continue to introduce new ways of accessing on-demand legal services in the UK.”
Robert Marcus, the chief legal officer who has a background at big City law firms like Clyde & Co and Macfarlanes, added: “This new service is an important step in opening up access to law to citizens who have all too often been unable to access the right legal advice in a competitive and timely way.”
Legal Utopia was a member of Lawtech UK’s lawtech sandbox pilot in the last year and its director, Jenifer Swallow, backed the app too.
“Dealing with legal problems should be as easy as using an iPhone app,” she said. “Legal Utopia offers exactly this, helping regular people and businesses get support.
“It has been fantastic to see the vision, commitment and progress of the team during the lawtech sandbox and we wish them every success in changing the landscape of the legal services market.”
Legal Utopia is also one of the companies taking part in the regulators’ pilot for review and comparison websites.
In its early days, the business collaborated with Westminster University to conduct one of the UK’s largest national legal consumer research projects looking at the needs of, and demand for, legal services by low-means consumers and businesses.
The 15-month project was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.