A few weeks ago, Betabeat jumped down the rabbit hole of legal starts that were trying to bid farewell to the billable hour by making it cheaper and easier to get legal advice and legal documents.
At the time, we had a heaping handful of signs that the venture capital market thought the time was ripe for legal disruption. Just last year, Nolo.com was acquired for $21 million, LegalZoom picked up $66 million (and rumors of an IPO), local TechCrunch Disrupt winners Docracy raised $650,000. Google Ventures led a $1 million round in LawPivot and an $18.5 million round in Rocket Lawyer.
But apparently that was just the beginning.
Question: What’s wrong with lawyer jokes?
Answer: Lawyers don’t think they’re funny and no one else thinks they’re jokes.
Of late, that punchline is less amusing than prescient. Over the past year, a new batch of startups have launched out of New York with the notion of using technology to bridge that disconnect between a client and her counsel—and perhaps inspire fewer contributions to the annals of pettifogger humor in the process.
Historically, the legal profession has been somewhat sheltered from the democratizing wave of the internet that drowned revenues in the music industry and media. Lawyers can’t claim as esoteric a skill set as, say, doctors. But the years of specialization and investment required to practice—and lawsuit-happy instincts of its practitioners—seem to have kept starry-eyed startup founders at bay. (Perhaps another reason being a lawyer makes the short list of professions your mom would be proud of.)
Economic upheaval, however, has a way of exposing inefficiencies.