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Technology is bringing legal advice and documents to the masses

Many tech start-ups are helping shake up the $200-billion legal field. They include developers of apps that help people write contracts and websites linking them to attorneys.

February 17, 2014|By Shan Li

Chad Ridderson, 26, said that affordable services from companies like Rocket Lawyer have saved him from searching online and getting advice from shady sources. The Pasadena resident counted on legal start-ups when he started his own companies and did consulting work in digital marketing.

"I use them instead of Googling for operating agreements and finding a template that someone else uses, which to me is scary and not as effective," Moore said.

Much like the retail industry, some online legal companies have proved successful enough to open their own bricks-and-mortar shops.

LegalForce helps clients with legal documents and also specializes in filing trademarks online, and its downtown Palo Alto headquarters is within walking distance of many start-ups, said Mitesh Patel, senior attorney at the company.

The office is decorated like a young start-up, with brightly colored furniture and the words "Law-inspiring" printed on the walls. A 15-minute consultation with a lawyer costs $45.

Customers can also reach attorneys online through the "Chattorney" option and do virtual consultations over Skype.

"The idea is: Let's get a place where you can find an attorney at 7 o'clock in the evening on a Saturday after work," Patel said. "And he can answer a question on my company or trademark."

Legal help comes in handy even when companies get slightly bigger.

Mucha, the skee ball entrepreneur, expanded to Los Angeles last year with the help of a friend, Andrew Herrold.

Herrold, a freelance photographer, said the Shake app has been handy in protecting the company in case anything goes wrong. The app has been a big hit with customers, who are surprised and then excited by the technology.

"Their first initial reaction is 'Whoa!" Herrold said. "But it's compelling because the language is simple and a quick read. You can skim it and say, 'OK, I am not selling my firstborn child.'"

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