Online Legal Services Company To Team Up With American Bar Association

The largest lawyer professional group in the U.S. is teaming up with a startup whose business model—targeting people who would not otherwise retain an attorney—also challenges the traditional delivery of legal services.

As the American Bar Association kicked off its annual meeting last week in Boston, it announced a partnership with Rocket Lawyer Inc. intended to help the bar group’s members connect with potential clients online.

The goal is twofold: to boost business for lawyers at a time when demand for their services is fairly slack, while expanding access to affordable legal help for small businesses.

Founded in 2008, Rocket Lawyer is an online legal service company whose customer base is consumers and small business owners. The company sells plans that offer low-cost access to a network of vetted attorneys, and has developed a mobile platform so users can download basic legal forms and do lawyer Q&As.

“What we found attractive about this was their focus on lawyers providing real advice directly to clients, in a market that we saw as being very horribly underserved,” ABA President James R. Silkenat told Law Blog. “One of the priorities for us is that these are clients who wouldn’t otherwise be using a lawyer.”

The details of the collaboration are still being worked out. But the basic plan is this: set up a pilot program where ABA members in a few states will use Rocket Lawyer’s online platform and provide feedback to the group on their experiences.  The experiment will likely involve a few hundred lawyers per state, Mr. Silkenat said, and should be up and running in the next month or so.

“We’ll monitor the kind of services they provide, how clients respond to them, make sure it really is the underserved communities they are responding to,” he said.

Rocket Lawyer will not be making a profit off the pilot program, according to Mr. Silkenat.

But the company will benefit from the ABA’s imprimatur.

“From Rocket Lawyer’s point of view, I think they see us as a validating part of the process,” Mr. Silkenat said. “We have access to tremendously qualified lawyers throughout the country.”