Internet: online legal document war heats up

Legal publishing giant LexisNexis (LN) has become the latest entrant to the automated document assembly market with the launch of LexisSmart.

Though already available through the company’s LawyerLocator referral service, the two will next month be linked up so that customers can seek a lawyer review of any document they create.

With Epoq Legal long established, and US operations LegalZoom and RocketLawyer set to enter the UK next year, the push to sell mass-market online DIY legal documents will reach a new pitch.

LN has partnered with Business Integrity – a company which provides document assembly and contract management software for Microsoft’s SharePoint – to use its system to automate 150 LN-drafted documents. The drafting is a dynamic process where the document changes depending on answers to certain questions.

Business Integrity lists several leading UK law firms among its clients, including Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Linkaters, Eversheds, Simmons & Simmons and Pinsent Masons.

As well as being available through LawyerLocator, law firms will be able to white label LexisSmart for their own websites, while it is also built into the LexisPSL product.

Rob Farquharson, director of LN Connect, said systems such as LexisSmart are “an acknowledgement that you don’t need a lawyer for everything”. It offers law firms efficiency and risk management benefits, he added.

Once the lawyer review facility is set up, users will either be able to select a lawyer of their choice or receive a recommendation for a firm that has signed up to provide the service on a fixed-fee basis. Mr Farquharson stressed that firms would keep 100% of the fee, but would have to sign a service-level agreement about their response times.

LN has made a more cautious entry into the US document assembly market with EZ Law, which currently offers just three products – a last will and testament, a living will and a power of attorney – and builds lawyer review into the offering as one of the core elements.

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