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I am always astounded that attorneys don’t grab technology by the scruff of it’s neck and shake it until every single ounce of productivity and additional profit has fallen out. Attorneys seem content with leaving things as they are. I generalise of course.

Last week saw one of your large suppliers, Metrofile, launch a product that does legal contracts for the general public. Alarm bells should be ringing, Legal Contract business belongs to your law firm, this is your bread and butter money.

Along comes one of the country’s biggest suppliers to the legal market and offers a product to the public that you would normally get the revenue from, even though you pay a handsome fee each month to them for their existing services, they want to take away part of your business.

What is it that stops attorneys from offering this type of service? Do you think it is unprofessional to offer online contracts? Does the Law Society of South Africa prevent it somehow? Is it too labour intensive to create such an offering? Are you worried about the exposure of the document creation tool creating a document that is not legally water-tight?

An online space offered to the general public and your clients is something law firms should have as default – once the document is compiled, they can either ask for it to be checked by an attorney, or they can take it as is. This would create additional work for the attorney and would allow the public access to law at a reasonable price – something the public is crying for at the moment.

Technology exists to handle such a system right now, it can be as slick as a user entering answers to questions and having the document pop out on their own computer in PDF format, or it can be as simple as them entering the data and a typist completing the document and emailing it to the client.

The technology vendors are going to gun for this space, and to all of them I say well done on seeing the opportunity and best of luck – for most of the “fly by night” startups, their bad legal content in their compiled documents will create extra business for the law firm – but there will be ones who will get it right. The time to act is now.

My problem with the Metrofile Company Law form generator is that it is a business that is making good money from the law firms of South Africa, surely it should not be taking your business away while still expecting you to remain as a loyal client.

I have spoken to Bruce Henderson on the phone about my views on this system encroaching on the traditional law firm business, but he did not see my point of view. I have also asked the public relations representative to get me the contact details for Metrofile to see how they were going to play the supplier vs competitor game going forward, but to date I have not had any feedback.

Metrofile is a solid supplier to the legal market in South Africa, I have always thought they offer a great service to a very important aspect of practising law in South Africa, I do look forward to hearing what they have to say.

This article is based on the facts in the press release from Metrofile titled “Online Legal Platforms Offer a Reliable Alternative to Costly Traditional Legal Services”. These are my opinions as the editor of Tech4Law after being part of technology solutions to the legal market for the last 29 years – I do encourage all parties to express their point of view, either through the comment section below each article, or by submitting an article for publication in this blog space. This is not a representation of the subscribers of Tech4Law, nor should it be seen as an attack on any person or entity, the focus of Tech4Law is to help attorneys of South Africa become more efficient in practising law. 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Posted on behalf of Metrofile…

    Metrofile comment from Pfungwa Serima, Group Chief Executive Officer at Metrofile Holdings Ltd

    Metrofile believes the online legal platform being launched by its group company Lexie Legal Services, will serve to fill an incredibly important gap in the market. It is primarily targeted at consumers, start-ups and Small-to-Medium Enterprises – which typically cannot afford the legal fees associated with paying for an attorney to draw up necessary business contracts and documents. In the past, these entrepreneurs and small business owners would either download standard templates from the internet or purchase a template from a book store. By doing this, they faced the risk of not having legally sound and compliant documents in place, which exposed them to potential financial loss.

    For a nominal fee the small business owner, entrepreneur and consumer can ensure that their documents and contracts are legally sound and compliant. This service is designed to assist start-ups and entrepreneurs with their entry to market by providing the required tools (documents) to reduce the legal and financial risks within the business.

    Traditional law firms and practices will continue to play a much needed and critical role within South Africa’s evolving business environment and Metrofile does not see this new online service as a direct threat or competitor to the specialised and professional drafting services offered by established legal professionals.

  2. If parties use a contract, and it results in litigation, due to defective wording / interpretation, would those parties have a case against Metrofile ?

  3. [quote name=”Janine”]If parties use a contract, and it results in litigation, due to defective wording / interpretation, would those parties have a case against Metrofile ?[/quote]

    Janine, I would think so – but I am no expert. The disclaimer would have to be rather watertight, as a system offering online legal contracts makes people assume the service provider is an expert and these forms are perceived as correct.

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