This week legal marketplace LawGives announced that it’s partnering with Mozilla, a global nonprofit that aims to create open source products and resources. LawGives is aiming to create an open legal marketplace where people can ask questions, get answers from legal professionals, and find lawyers to work with. They will be helping Mozilla build out their legal contributor community, before launching the LawGives platform to the public at the end of the year.
The company announced its Mozilla partnership yesterday at the demo day for StartX, a startup accelerator for Stanford University students. LawGives co-founders Tony Lai and Pieter Gunst, both former laywers, started working on LawGives while attending Stanford, and began working with Mozilla to bring lawyers and law students together to work with Mozilla’s community of developers.
Lai said that the partnership makes sense because both sides have a goal of making the web, and the information on it, more openly available. “[This partnership] emphasizes one of the key reasons that we created LawGives, which is this sharing ethos, this open source ethos, this idea that the law should be accessible just like the open web,” Lai said.
LawGives, which is currently in private beta, is trying to make legal advice easily accessible through it’s Q&A platform. Similar to how Docracy is making legal documents openly available to anyone who needs them, LawGives wants to enable people to get advice from legal professionals, browse Q&A on the platform, and find documents and other resources. “You just type in a question in your own words, and it will automatically start pulling in relevant information,” Gunst said. “With a simple click of the button you’ll be able to get a legal professional helping you with that issue and guiding you through the maze that is the law.”
The company is starting off by targeting entrepreneurs, and helping them with any legal issues while they start their company. The cohort of companies in the StartX program have been using the platform, and they’ve pulled in Silicon Valley law firms to focus exclusively on providing advice. “We have been able to provide a model that encourages law firms and lawyers to contribute their knowledge, to contribute what used to be locked behind closed doors,” Gunst said.
As for why lawyers would spend time contributing their knowledge to the platform, Lai and Gunst said it’s about building reputation, and of course finding leads. “It’s not for those lawyers who want to keep their knowledge locked up,” Lai said. And while they couldn’t specify what form their business model will take, since they’ll be connecting lawyers with potential clients a referral fee structure is likely.
Startups like Docracy and LegalZoom, which provides DIY legal documents and advice, are already trying to give people an alternative to calling a lawyer every time they need a question answered. And there are startups like UpCounsel and LexSpot that connect people with the right lawyer for the job. Lai said their community goes well beyond providing documents or a directory of lawyers, and is more focused on knowledge sharing. ”The law is much more than documents,” Lai said. “Law is fundamentally going to be a human relationship piece as well.”
Right now Lai said they’re focusing on expanding the team and raising their seed round before launching the platform to the public. Partnering with Mozilla gives the company a vote of confidence from the open source world, and ensures that it will have an active base of entrepreneurs to work with. In order to become a go-to source for legal advice and resources,the company will need to expand beyond just the startup vertical, and provide a clear value proposition to lawyers who lend their knowledge and advice through the platform.