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Legal-tech start-ups make a case for entrepreneurs

Priyanka Pani
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As the new business ecosystem matures, firms look for cost-effective legal advice

Legal-tech is still in its nascent stage in India, with a very few start-ups competing with each other Shutterstock.com
Legal-tech is still in its nascent stage in India, with a very few start-ups competing with each other Shutterstock.com

The Indian start-up world is growing and so are the legal issues associated with it. However, most of the start-ups can’t afford a team of lawyers and are also quite unaware about issues they have to deal with.

For example, a Bengaluru-based start-up (name withheld) resorted to legal aid after an ex-employee started a similar company with an identical brand name and logo.

The start-up, which was bootstrapped and couldn’t afford high fees of established lawyers, found a solution through Delhi-based start-up LawRato, a legal tech platform providing expert legal advice and counsel to enterprises and individuals. LawRato helped the company sent a cease and desist notice followed by a criminal complaint and FIR. LawRato also ensured that the ex-employee shut operations before causing much damage to clients.

Similarly, it also helped save a start-up’s founders from losing control of their start-up as they were about to sign an investor term sheet which had heavily lopsided terms in favour of the investor.

Forgotten aspects

“Most entrepreneurs are young and fresh out of college wanting to solve a problem. They are so focussed in building their product that they tend to ignore the legal aspects of a business. We are trying to solve that issue by helping them connect with the right kind of lawyers and provide cost-effective solutions as most of them are cash-strapped,” said Rohan Mahajan, founder of LawRato.

LawRato has a network of 1,500 legal partners across 200 cities. Started in early 2015, the firm has helped over 200 start-ups in their legal hassles.

The common issues faced by start-ups include incorporation of legal compliance, including drafting the founder’s agreement; protecting Intellectual Property by filing for trademark, copyright and patents; protecting the company from future legal hassles by drafting well-thought vendor agreements, platform terms of use, privacy policies; and protecting the founders interest during fund raising and M&A.

Like LawRato, another Delhi-based start-up MyAdvo, an online platform connecting lawyers and individuals, has a network of 1,000 lawyers and has solved 3,000 client queries since its launch in September 2015.

It plans to onboard about 1 lakh lawyers on its platform by 2018.

Legal market

“The opportunity in this space is huge and thanks to the start-up ecosystem, where hundreds of companies are incorporated in a day, this segment is going to boom. The total legal market is $10 billion ( Rs. 67,000 crore), of which litigation alone is Rs. 33,000 crore and 10 per cent of that market holds huge potential,” said Rishabh Gupta, founder of MyAdvo.

Vakilsearch.com, founded by Hrishikesh Datar, unites consumers with reliable experts online. It has over 4,000 lawyers on its platform.

Most of these legal-tech start-ups use ranking algorithm to find the best lawyer for your need, based on the lawyer’s experience, practice area, location, rating and availability. Lawyers are verified on basis of their credentials, and are also reviewed and rated by users. Many of them provide a full concierge service, with in-house teams that assist in choosing the right lawyer, framing queries and co-ordinating meetings and collecting feedback. As far as monetisation is concerned, the users pay a nominal fee to consult a lawyer and the companies retain a part of that consultation fee as their revenue. As per the Bar Council of India it is illegal to charge commissions from lawyers. Legal-tech, though a well-funded segment in the US, is still in its nascent stage in India, with a very few start-ups competing with each other. As the start-up ecosystem matures, legal-tech is bound to see huge traction.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 28, 2016)

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