Simplify the Law – a law firm franchise concept which launched last year – has reinvented itself as an online legal service that aims to help commercial lawyers repel new competition in the market, Legal Futures can report.
The site offers users a wide range of free legal guidance, as well as the ability to create a range of free legal documents, which have been produced by Newcastle law firm Dickinson Dees.
If users then want to find a lawyer for further help, there are currently 83 solicitors profiled in the site’s directory, broken down into specialisms. Some are from firms in LawNet, with which Evident Legal – the company behind Simplify – has a partnership.
Evident is also offering a white-label version of the site to firms, and three have already taken this up.
Evident CEO Jonathan Brewer said: “The problem we’re trying to answer for businesses is not ‘Where do a I find a lawyer?’ – that’s not the question they’re asking – but ‘What do I do about this legal problem and how can I stay away from a lawyer for as long as possible?’.”
This means the free guidance is a critical part of the site, but he added that research in the US indicated that 70-80% of users who start to draft documents online ended up seeking legal advice. “You have to give a little to get back.”
Evident is now trying to sign up more firms, but Mr Brewer cautioned that the free approach “only works for law firms that make money from more complex work. If you make money from trotting out standard contracts, then the game’s up”.
He argued that firms need to act collectively if they want to take on the likes of Riverview Law, DAS, LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, as they cannot do this on their own. It will be promoted through search engine optimisation, pay-per-click advertising and PR activity. Simplify costs £399 for one fee-earner to be listed against one area of commercial law.
Mr Brewer said that while Evident spoke to a lot of firms about the franchising model, it proved too hard to get off the ground. “The good firms said that when you’ve got 10 firms [signed up], we’d like to be number 11.”