Legal Counsel Even a Small Business Can Afford
BY Laura Entis
Rocket Lawyer founder Charley Moore is determined to democratize the legal landscape, even if it means going to court.
When Charley Moore graduated from law school in 1996, copyright law for Internet content was virtually non-existent. His experience working with (then tiny) start-ups like Yahoo and WebTV taught him that small companies desperately needed an easy, affordable way to access legal advice--standard lawyer fees were way too expensive.
In 2008, Moore founded Rocket Lawyer to meet this demand. By providing free legal documents and affordable representation over the Internet, Rocket Lawyer helped revolutionize the legal market. The response has been overwhelming: last year, the company attracted more than one million paying customers, taking in $28 million in 2012 and earning a whopping three-year growth rate of 775 percent.
No surprise, then, that the San Francisco-based Rocket Lawyer is one of the companies vying for a spot on the 2013 Inc. 5000, after ranking No. 72 on the 2012 list. As applicants arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of these fast-growing, private companies (For more information and to apply, go here).
Working with small businesses is in Moore’s blood; his father owned a chain of gas stations and growing up, Moore helped out a lot, an experience that instilled in him first hand knowledge of the many day-to-day challenges or running a business, including the dearth of affordable legal services.
After serving as a Naval officer in the Gulf War, Moore attended UC Berkley School of Law. Upon graduation he returned to his small business roots, working exclusively with start-ups--one of his first clients was upstart Yahoo, still at only three full-time employees.
"When I was representing start-ups like Yahoo and WebTV I found that even the smartest founders didn't necessarily know anything about the law," Moore says. It bothered him to see innovative companies stall out when they hit the inevitable potholes in the entrepreneurial cycle simply because they couldn’t afford legal council. "I saw so many businesses that may have succeeded fail, and I wanted to do something about that," he recalls.
Rocket Lawyer was his solution. Founded in August 2008, the company provides free, interactive legal templates and step-by-step instructions to help small businesses and families manage legal documents on their own. For help with thornier legal problems, Rocket Lawyer charges a yearly subscription fee, which gives customers access to initial consultations, document review, phone consultations, and legal representation from local attorneys at a significant discount from standard fees.
"We’ve made the law affordable and accessible," Moore says. With over a million paying users in 2012, he is thrilled with the way business is going. But not everyone is happy.
In November, Rocket Lawyer was slapped with several lawsuits including false and misleading advertising, and trademark infringement from competitor LegalZoom.
"We are literally having to fight it out in the legal system to democratize the law," he says. Ongoing lawsuit aside, Moore is excited to continue to reshape the legal landscape; he compares Rocket Lawyer’s services to Southwest Airline’s revolutionary introduction of the $49 flight. "Suddenly, more people could fly," he says. “Now, more people than ever before can protect themselves legally."