Bruce Henderson of Company Law

One of the biggest challenges facing Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups is ensuring they have properly drafted and compliant agreements. This is largely due to the high cost of having an attorney draft agreements and documentation.

Fortunately, the rise of reputable online legal platforms is increasingly providing a solution to these challenges. These platforms can provide a company with legally sound and updated documentation that is specific to the business’ needs. They are also becoming more interactive, which allows for specific situations and requirements to be included in the drafting process.

The process for using these platforms involves accessing a web based portal which would be available anytime, anywhere and from any device with internet connectivity. The user is required to input information and select variables so as to ensure that the agreement is customised to the user’s requirements.

These platforms can also integrate with other databases and service providers. An example would be integrating with credit bureaux and platforms such as the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) whereby the correct information regarding an individual or company can be automatically populated from these founding databases, thus negating the risk of typos and incorrect information.

A major benefit of any cloud or web based platform is that a user’s content can be stored and thus be available on demand. In addition to this, the other advantages of using the services of a reputable online legal platform include reduced costs, convenience, efficiency, collaboration, compliance and security.

When looking to use the services on an online legal platform, the user must validate that the site from which they are purchasing the agreements is reputable and the content has been drafted by suitably qualified and experienced lawyers. It is obviously important that the agreements are kept up to date so as to cater for changes to the law that occur from time to time.

Compliance with regulatory and statutory provisions is also essential. A good example of this is with suretyships within credit applications. These suretyships should always include clauses which make provision for business rescue and must be compliant with and anticipate the requirements of the National Credit Act. Another good example is shareholder agreements where it is essential that the content is updated in terms of the new Companies Act and that a memorandum of incorporation is prepared together with the shareholders agreement.

Many start-ups fail to ensure that written agreements are prepared and signed, particularly with shareholders, employees, customers and suppliers. These agreements would include shareholder agreements, memorandums of incorporation, non-disclosure agreements, employment contracts, restraints of trade, terms and conditions and credit applications. The electronic platforms offer cost effective packages that cover all required documentation for the start-up or SME.

With the inclusion of advanced electronic signatures, entities are also able to sign these agreements in their digital form and in doing so ensure that the integrity of these agreements will remain intact and the content will be available on demand.

The technological developments impacting the legal profession are consistent with the trends sweeping through several professions where many offerings and services are becoming available “online”. In particular, there is an increasing demand for clerical, administrative and standard services provided by professionals to be automated and available on mass via the web at a reduced rate.

While there will always remain a need for specialised drafting services to be provided by attorneys in a traditional way, the constant advancements of technology will ensure that most legal contracts that are required on a day-to-day basis by businesses can be obtained online, through portals that continue to evolve and provide accurate and professional legal contracts at a fraction of the price that they would cost if prepared by an attorney in the ordinary course.

Contributed by:
By Bruce Henderson, Managing Director at Litigator - a Group Company of Metrofile Holdings Limited


About Litigator:
Litigator, a group company of Metrofile Holdings Limited, was founded in 2012 by a group of professionals with extensive experience in litigation practices and the ICT sector. Litigator focuses on developing and implementing cloud and web based software applications within the South African legal profession, and encourages the utilisation of advanced technology to improve productivity, and reduce the high amounts of administration involved in managing legal processes, in order to increase practice profitability. For more information, visit www.litigator.co.za or www.companylaw.co.za


About Metrofile
Metrofile Holdings Limited has been listed on the JSE limited (“JSE”) since 1995 and its ordinary shares are quoted in the “Support Services” sector of the JSE. Metrofile is a black-owned Company with black ownership amounting to 53.36%. Its largest shareholder is its empowerment partner, Mineworkers Investment Company (“MIC”) which owns 34,41% of Metrofile’s equity. Services include records storage and management, image processing, backup storage and management, records management, software and records management consultancy, business continuity and it continuity, file plan development, confidential records destruction, paper recycling, as well the sale and maintenance of a wide range of business equipment, including scanners, library security systems, mailing and packaging machines. Through the recent acquisition of 40% of Litigator, a unique cloud based litigation platform, the Group now also offers secure online filing and issuing of litigation documents, advanced electronic signatures and secure storage of litigation documents. The Metrofile Records Management division is the market leader in both physical and digital information and records management in Africa and is represented in the six major provinces of South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia and United Arab Emirates. It operates from 44 facilities, at 21 locations, covering more than 87 136 square metres of warehousing and office space. In accordance with its owner/lessee model, 68% of these facilities are owned by the Group. The rest of the Group’s divisions lease their premises.

Comments   

0 #4 Malcolm Pearson 2016-10-18 11:06
George, you are correct, but maybe the idea to have an online offering that has you check the contract before it goes to your new online client might be the answer.

Thanks for the comment.

Quoting George Smith:
I have seen what a good contract ca do to give real legal protection - most clauses may be template material but the guts of the contract still needs to be drafted by a attorney who is up to date with case law ... things are changing everyday and many cases handed down need to be studied for application in contracts.... I would never trust a template contract in any part of my business
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0 #3 George Smith 2016-10-18 08:59
I have seen what a good contract ca do to give real legal protection - most clauses may be template material but the guts of the contract still needs to be drafted by a attorney who is up to date with case law ... things are changing everyday and many cases handed down need to be studied for application in contracts.... I would never trust a template contract in any part of my business
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0 #2 Malcolm Pearson 2016-10-11 15:46
Denis - all very valid comments - these type of systems I would have liked to have seen coming from law firms, who could interact with the client using the online forms.

What astounds me though, is the fact that Metrofile, who make very good money from their lawyer clients have decided to offer a solution to cut out the lawyer in a solution they offer. I would imagine that this is sort of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Quoting Denis:
There is no substitute for the attorney. Business people may know what they want, but are often unaware of the intricacies of the law which may apply, but not obviously so. There is a reason why the legal profession exists: one wouldn't want to operate on one's own body following prompts from a website! Online platforms for legal documents are very, very dangerous. On the other hand, I personally welcome the move, as it will no doubt require our input to resolve issues that arise!
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0 #1 Denis 2016-10-11 09:26
There is no substitute for the attorney. Business people may know what they want, but are often unaware of the intricacies of the law which may apply, but not obviously so. There is a reason why the legal profession exists: one wouldn't want to operate on one's own body following prompts from a website! Online platforms for legal documents are very, very dangerous. On the other hand, I personally welcome the move, as it will no doubt require our input to resolve issues that arise!
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