Cloud-based law firm signals new era

New Zealand’s first web-based law firm is challenging the way lawyers have traditionally worked, according to founder John Shingleton.

After 20 years of commercial law, the Christchurch-based lawyer sensed that the market wanted lawyers to fully embrace digital technology and his solution was to create a cloud-based law firm.
“Having been the Managing Partner of a mid-sized law firm for several years, I could see that there were ways of offering a high quality, cloud-based service that would provide better value for money for clients,” John says.
“We believe this is the first time an online legal service has been established in New Zealand without the behind-the-scenes costs of a traditional law firm.”

Among the features that set Online Lawyers NZ apart from many other law firms are a competitive, fixed price for services; regular online posts about legal issues; and more transparency for clients about the work being done for them.
“At the moment many people have no idea what they will be charged, after they have engaged a lawyer. The market has been surprisingly tolerant for a long time but the tide is turning,” John says.  “The way we are working will mean that quality legal services will be more affordable, particularly for SMEs, who are regularly charged at the same rate as large organisations.”

Services will be provided by John and a range of specialist lawyers, who will be called upon depending on the client’s needs. Employment, health and safety, business mergers and acquisitions, and shareholding issues are among the areas of law that will be covered by the firm.

It also intends to share a substantial amount of free, general information about legal issues. “When you go to your doctor, they’ll send you to authoritative websites to find out more about your condition. We’ll offer the same type of free information on legal issues and then back it up with individualised advice if it’s required,” John says.

Young entrepreneurs in small to medium sized businesses, who are used to working in a digital environment, are expected to be quick to engage Online Lawyers NZ but John says the firm should suit most business people.
“We will do business anywhere in New Zealand as almost everything will be able to be done online. The advantages of working like this are enormous, especially for people working in remote locations or cities like Auckland, where you might have to travel long distances to see someone.”