Edwards: small businesses need legal support

US online legal document service Rocket Lawyer formally launches in the UK today, selling consumers and businesses annual packages starting at £40.

Some 20 law firms have signed up to the Google-backed company’s ‘On Call’ panel, offering a 33% discount on their fees to users.

A relatively small number of documents are initially available, mainly aimed at small businesses – for individuals there is just a will, a power of attorney and a lodger agreement – although this should increase over time.

Rocket Lawyer offers three annual subscription packages: £40 to individuals, £100 for ‘business essentials’ – both of these include one free legal consultation – and £250 for ‘business standard’, which offers a wider range of documents and six free consultations.

The panel firms are spread around the country. They include: Stephensons, Richard Nelson, Athi Law, Berry Smith, Butterworth Solicitors, Freeman Harris Solicitors, Christian. The Law Firm, DPH Legal, Clutton Cox, Darlingtons, Simpson Sissons & Brooke, MTA Solicitors, Glaisyers and Colemans-ctts.

Today’s launch event for small companies, entitled ‘Seven ways to bullet proof your business’, is being held at the Google Campus in Shoreditch, London.

Last week, we reported that Rocket Lawyer is being sued in the US by rival LegalZoom, which will shortly launch in the UK in an exclusive partnership with QualitySolicitors.

A survey of small businesses conducted for the launch found that 82% are choosing not to employ permanent members of staff due to the cost associated with completing the required legal documentation.

Over half (56%) of the businesses said cost was the main obstacle for employing permanent staff, while 42% cited the headache of legal compliance as the next biggest factor.

The situation is not expected to improve either. According to new business owners who took part in the research, new legal requirements for employers, such as the new National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) scheme, are only adding to their worries. Less than a quarter of the UK’s small firms (21%) stated that they feel ready for NEST.

As a result, 89% of businesses said they would welcome more support from the government to help deal with legal requirements.

Mark Edwards, vice-president and general manager UK of Rocket Lawyer, said: “Small businesses and start-ups are the bedrock of our economy. As a result, we need to give them the legal support and tools they need to continue growing. Currently, these growing businesses are facing a burden of legal compliance that is affecting how they can hire.”

Rocket Lawyer founder Charley Moore added: “As in the United States, we are hoping to act as a trusted guide helping UK business owners to successfully manage these responsibilities. We are not advocating cutting corners or quick fixes; instead we want to highlight the easy and affordable ways to make the employment of full-time staff a workable option.”

 

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