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10/20/2010
03:01 PM
Jake Widman
Jake Widman
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Cloud Legal Service Adds Diagnostic Tool

Rocket Lawyer, an online legal services solution for small businesses, has launched a free "Legal Health Score" tool with which businesses can assess their level of compliance, extent to which they have all the documents they should, and so on. The company also released the results of a survey of SMBs' legal concerns.

Rocket Lawyer, an online legal services solution for small businesses, has launched a free "Legal Health Score" tool with which businesses can assess their level of compliance, extent to which they have all the documents they should, and so on. The company also released the results of a survey of SMBs' legal concerns.Rocket Lawyer positions itself as a sort of TurboTax for legal assistance. (Some of the company's executives used to be with Intuit.) "We set out to be a cloud computing platform for all small business legal needs," claims founder Charley Moore. The company boasts 125 thousand new accounts every month, with half of those being small businesses.

Businesses and individuals can create legal documents -- contracts, employment agreements, incorporation forms, and so on -- by answering a series of questions. The service pulls the necessary language from a database of relevant material and assembles the needed documents to order. Once a document is created, the customer can edit it in Rocket Lawyer's own editor or check it out for offline editing -- Rocket Lawyer's document repository keeps track of the current and previous versions. Customers can also upload documents they may already have created, or new ones created outside the Rocket Lawyer system, into their Rocket document depository. The service provides e-signature capability for both created and imported documents.

For followup, the service provides a checklist of what the customer should do after a document is created. It also creates a "Legal Dashboard," with a calendar showing those next steps, an area for setting up permissions-based access to stored documents, and other management tools. A directory of lawyers offers online review of documents or general consultation.

Rocket Lawyer Starting a Legal Document

Rocket Lawyer lets you create legal documents by answering a series of questions.

The new addition, the Legal Health Score, is available through the dashboard. With it, businesses can answer a series of questions about their legal situation -- what the status of their business is (incorporated or not, for example), what legal documents they have available, what archiving policies are in place, and so on. Based on those answers, the company gets an assessment of their overall legal situation and risk exposure, expressed as a score on a scale of 100. The Legal Health Score is available through any Rocket Lawyer plan, even the free trial one.

As a TurboTax user, my impression from the tour is that Rocket Lawyer has addressed a serious need in a really useful way. I've created a couple of legal documents myself, and the best process I could find was to download a prewritten template document and try to edit it to fit my situation (and I'm not a lawyer). In the same way TurboTax breaks down the tax-filing operation into discrete, digestible chunks that don't even require interacting with the actual forms, so does Rocket Lawyer simplify the creation of legal documents.

And the need is there, according to a survey the company just released. They polled 1,000 SMBs, and one in four named legal issues as the biggest risk to their companies. At the same time, though, more than half said they might avoid seeking legal counsel because of the expense. Rocket Lawyer not only makes getting legal help simpler, it makes it cheaper.

The company also offered five tips for SMBs to protect themselves against legal problems:

1. Look into incorporating your business. 2. Once you've selected a company name, research trademark availability and make it official. Also register your company's domain name and choose social media identities (e.g, Twitter handles). 3. Document your company's operations. 4. Develop an employee handbook that provides a clear guideline for all important issues such as employee/employer rights, HR issues and paid time off policies 5. Leverage a community of entrepreneurs and expert professionals, like lawyers and accountants, who can help guide you through the steps necessary to protecting yourself and setting your business on the path to success.

Prospective customers can create one legal document and get a Legal Health Score for free. Business plans cost $40/month or $300/year for an unlimited number of documents, plus a discount on lawyer fees.

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