An exciting breakthrough in online delivery is occurring through the new offering that Suntrust Bank is launching. They have partnered with a third party to create an online Business Hub which provides legal services in addition to assistance with planning, websites, data backup and finances.
From the website: “This online portal helps you create legal documents, develop business plans and generate invoices and financial reports.” It appears to be a one-stop shop for small business owners who need accounting and planning software, and even some marketing services. The service also claims to provide risk assessment services for businesses through the legal services tools.
Business Centric Services Group, Inc. is the named developer of the Business Hub according to the Terms of Service. Both Epoq Legal, a company based in the UK, and DirectLaw, a US based company are providing technology components to this project. Mozy Pro, PlanHQ, Moonfruit and Freeagent are also providing software. The link on Suntrust takes the user to a third-party website that is run by the Business Centric Services Group, Inc. All of the tools provided in the Hub cost the user $25 a month which may be debited from the user’s Suntrust account.
The online legal services are provide through a product called Legal Document Builder. According to the site, this lets the business owner handle the following:
– Create legal documents for your business from a wide range of templates using a straight forward question and answer process.
– Avoid risks and disputes that could financially weaken your business and comply with Health & Safety legislation by performing risk assessments and more.
That’s a lot of practical software in one place for a small business owner for only $25 a month. I haven’t had time to dig into the details of using each product on the Hub because I have not registered yet. But as a small business owner myself and having been a solo practitioner for many years, I can certainly see the appeal of this package of unbundled legal and other services. I do not at this point see any reference to licensed lawyers providing support for the legal documents. For many small business owners’ legal needs, this would not even be necessary. However, there may be more options available once you register.
In my classes, I tell the law students to think about what happened when Intuit got into the tax business. What happened to accountants when Turbo Tax went on the market? Then I ask: “What would happen to estate planning or small business legal services if Turbo Tax added those online options at the end of the annual tax software?” How many consumers are going to go straight through that trusted brand for the convenience and the fact that their confidential information is already being handled in that space. With this new online Business Hub from Suntrust, it seems like that future is starting to get here.
How will pure-play virtual law offices serving business law manage to compete with $25/month for all of these services? I will leave that for another post.