Changing the legal landscape: Lawyered aims to make legal compliances easier for SMEs and businesses

By Sindhu Kashyaap|1st Nov 2017
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Need legal help but don’t know who to ask? Delhi-based legal advisory platform Lawyered provides cost-effective legal solutions tailored for professionals, startups, SMEs and corporates.

The bouquets for the Indian startup ecosystem have been accompanied by several brickbats. The ones most commonly discussed are the legal dramas. From the OYO and Zo Rooms battle to the ugly war Stayzilla had to face, from Uber encountering several legal battles on their home ground and in India to smaller startups facing other hiccups, legal compliance issues have remained in the forefront.

So what’s a startup or corporate to do? Delhi-based bootstrapped startup Lawyered was started on this very premise - to help startups understand legal compliances. A legal advisory platform, Lawyered focuses on providing legal assistance to professionals, businesses and corporates.

What does it do?

Legal work is a part of any business, be it at a startup, SME or a corporate house. Through Lawyered, an advice seeker can ask questions, request quotes or book a free introductory meeting with an expert lawyer.

Shashank Tiwari, Co-founder and CEO of Lawyered, says a majority of successful businesses tend to spend at least 5 percent of their total expenses on the legal sector.

It might be drafting (legal contracts and documentation), filing (intellectual property, compliances etc) or fighting (disputes, lawsuits etc), but a smart business owner knows that legal costs are bound to skyrocket if not attended to in time.

Business owners are not always well versed with the legal essentials required to run and grow a business. Finding a lawyer still remains a job best handled through recommendations from friends and family.

The Lawyered team claims to get lawyers on-board the same way, through recommendations.

The Lawyered team

Lawyered has an invite-only lawyer network built from references and recommendations from leading industry experts.

“We help such decision makers connect with verified legal advisors who can deliver sound legal advice. On Lawyered, the average experience of the network in company laws is eight years; this way, we can ensure that our network of lawyers can cater to a wide variety of requirements from all industries and nature of businesses,” Shashank says.

Eureka moment

The idea behind Lawyered came when Shashank was working on a venture idea that revolved around stock-trading for pre-IPO startups. He started the journey by asking friends and family if anyone knew a lawyer well versed with SEBI regulations so he could understand the regulations and compliances his company would require.

After a month of searching and meeting a dozen lawyers, Shashank understood that his idea would not work due to current SEBI regulations. But – more importantly – he learnt that finding the right lawyer was a difficult task.

“Having tried my hands at a couple of ventures before Lawyered, I already knew the potential of the Indian startup market. There were too many young entrepreneurs trying to kick off their first ventures with absolutely no idea about company laws, rules or regulations,” Shashank says.

Getting the team right

Shashank was joined Gauri Bedekar as Co-founder and COO, Raghav Shekhar as Co-founder and CMO and Lakshya Kamboj as Co-founder and Chief Sales Officer.

“The four of us know each other for close to a decade. Raghav and I studied in the same college and later worked together. I also met Gauri and Lakshya during my college days. Gauri, Raghav and I had tried our first venture together in 2013, so they were the first ones I reached out to discuss the idea. They were receptive; Gauri was the first one to join, Raghav joined shortly after and Lakshya followed a month later,” Shashank says.

Understanding the legalities

Hailing from non-legal backgrounds, the four co-founders spent most of their time with law firm partners, in-house counsels, independent legal consultants and business owners, trying to understand how the industry and market worked together in the current scenario.

Shashank says they noticed that the legal industry is highly under-utilised, mainly due to the lack of legal awareness, lawyer accessibility and transparency of cost and process.

Lawyered aims to solve these issues by being a one-stop legal advisory solution provider, helping people with answers to their legal questions, get transparent cost estimates and also book in-person meetings.

“We were able to identify early on that picking a lawyer is not as easy as it seems. Lawyers are specialised in ways difficult to imagine for the layman. And apart from the different practice areas of law, a lawyer’s expertise is built on the type of clients he has worked with. In a way, each lawyer is unique and knowing which one is best suited for the job is a difficult task,” Shashank says.

The workings

The platform overcame this challenge by providing more than one way for the user to deal with their legal issue. A legal advice seeker can ask questions, get quotations for their legal work, book in-person meetings and get on-call advice.

The lawyers also actively interact with user-submitted questions and help users overcome legal troubles for free.

“Users can also post their legal requirements and get quotations from lawyers in their locality. This is one of the most used features on our website as it helps users get transparent pricing before commencing work,” he says.

Users can also decide to connect with lawyers in person to discuss their legal work or pay for a 30-minute phone call with an expert if legal advice is needed on urgent basis.

The market space

The market landscape shows several legal startups functioning these days.

These include LawRato, a B2B mobile app for lawyers. Legistify.com, launched in 2016, is a quick online-agreement making platform that produces an agreement at the backend, based on a series of questions it asks the users.

Vakilsearch aims to provide startups legal services at an affordable price in areas of trademark registrations, legal documentation and a suite of other services involving business expansion, intellectual property protection, and complying with tax laws. It also provides accounting services through its partnership with Intuit. Other legal startups in the fray include MeetUrPro, LegalRaasta, bCompliance and VenturEasy.

However, a lack of disruptions persists with almost similar business models and offerings. This might be the reason why startups are not raising more than Series A funding as of now.

The US has been scooping up the highest amount of investment in this segment, with more than $254 million in 2014.

The differentiator

However, Shashank believes that Lawyered is different. He says the main differentiator “between us and the competition is that we are a closed network”.

“Every lawyer on-board is verified and vetted before being inducted on the platform,” he says. He adds that India currently has over 20 lakh lawyers, and over 1.5 lakh law students are graduating each year.

“It is extremely tough to get insight into each lawyer's practice, making it nearly impossible to maintain quality on the platform. For an individual, trust is the most crucial factor before engaging a lawyer. On Lawyered, the user doesn’t need to worry about trust as each lawyer is recommended by Lawyered,” says Shashank.

Currently, a legal advice seeker can find himself legal advisors across Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Lawyered works on a subscription model for lawyers. For a fixed half-yearly or yearly amount, lawyers get a sophisticated appointment-booking enabled profile that helps increase visibility, traction and outreach of their practice.

Since the platform went live in May 2016, over 200 lawyers have subscribed to their product LawyeredPlus. The team claims growth at 40 percent month-on-month and says it helps over 50 business owners get legal consultations from expert advisors daily.

The company claims to have generated revenue of Rs 40 lakh by selling subscriptions to corporate lawyers. With a retention rate of over 90 percent, it is a clear indication that lawyers have accepted the role of technology in this growing economy.

Lawyered aims to standardise common legal services by providing cost-effective legal solutions tailored for professionals, startups, SMEs and corporates.

Speaking of their future plans, Raghav says, “Technology will play a major role in not only discovery but also delivery of legal work. We aim to bring AI and machine learning into play to help and automate ongoing legal processes. As of now, the legal industry is not using technology up to its potential. Digitising data will be the primary step in achieving insights and pathways to further technological advancement.”

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