NSL Blog

Contract law for SME's in Plain English

September 18, 2013


The law is for everybody

Transformation in legal services: for the last few months I have been working with, and, advising a company called Lawbite. My reason for engaging with the company is that they are offering a viable alternative to legal advice for SME’s and start ups which is sorely needed. It is disruptive to the existing legal profession, but that is no bad thing. Lawbite is well overdue. Britain is sustained by SME’s yet their need of the law and the service they get from the law is not always evenly matched.

The law defines us: as we have defined it, it shapes our lives in every thing we do. Yet we don’t see it, we don’t think about it, often until we need recourse and readdress through the law, the time when trust is broken, or a party has been abused, or even criminal actions have been taken. Then its too late in the sense that the milk is spilt. At this point we find the law unforgiving, and seeking the truth and legal address complex, expensive and in fact life-sapping. I am sure many have experienced that. Our research shows many SME’s avoid seeking legal counsel because they distrust the motivations of lawyers and the associated costs – but the reality is eventually we need it in one way or another,

The law a living breathing thing: I asked Lawbite founder Clive Rich, to tell the story of why we need to do better for our SME’s in a time of austerity, when we need more hands to the economic pump rather than less. Also, there is a sense that the legal profession has become self serving, putting itself before its clients, often over-charging for an inadequate service.

This is Clive’s story,

Why do we distrust Lawyers?  Have you ever felt a lawyer giving you the once over assessing your billing potential, to have your suspicions confirmed when perusing the eye-watering invoice. Or your lawyer moving at a pace that made a snail look like Ysain Bolt? Have you ever felt that lawyers almost deliberately use English which nobody else understands and which doesn’t reflect the modern realities of your business? Has dealing with a lawyer ever made you feel small or untrusting? Have you ever been charged fees for a document which you are sure was a precedent which the law firm already had? If so you are not alone, in fact there are quite a few of you.

The law as an alien language: Many of you find that contracts are written in an alien language which you don’t understand. Consequently, over half of all Small companies according to recent research don’t use lawyers as a result, and those that do are often wary, untrusting and resentful of the cost and unwelcoming way that they are treated.

Businesses vulnerable without the right legal protection: But without the right legal protection, legal frameworks and protocols in place, a thriving business can be vulnerable in a multiplicity of ways – losing out on margins, profits or exit values. There are over four million small companies in the UK and they make up over 99 percent of all UK companies, so that’s a pretty big group of people to leave out! However during my 30 years of experience as a lawyer I’ve noticed that lawyers generally like to focus on larger clients paying bigger fees. They also prefer to deliver complicated, long-winded advice – the exact opposite of the kind of practical, speedy help needed by small companies.

So what if: The question I asked was so what if companies could access legal contracts in a way which is simple to understand, affordable, welcoming and trustworthy?

Welcome to Lawbite:  Lawbite has been created based on these insights and the what if question. We have developed a collection of plain English, simple contracts that are affordable and easy to use. We have placed these on our platform along with a set of customer friendly software tools so that you can easily edit, share, sign and store your documents online. We have wrapped a virtual Law firm around this offering so that if you like the idea of simple, affordable contracts but you need a bit of help, then cost effective and friendly advice is available at the touch of a button, whether you need to finalise a contract, negotiate or sort out a dispute. You agree a quote with your LawBite lawyer before anything happens and then we stick to it.

Highest possible standards: None of this is achieved by compromising on the standards of reassurance and safety which we know all clients expect from their lawyers. We are properly insured and regulated like any other law firm. We deliberately choose experienced lawyers as our LawBriefs, who understand our mission, but have the expertise to look after our clients safely.

We have our own Manifesto which defines our purpose and passion and which is our promise to you. It sums up what we do and how we do it. Here are our pledges;

The LawBite Manifesto

  1. We believe the Law is for everybody
  2. We keep small companies safe and sound at a price they can afford
  3. We put value to clients first, not value to lawyers
  4. We believe everybody has the right to understand the legal documents they sign
  5. We restore trust in the Law.

A big hand to small companies: These are not just empty slogans. We want to provide a big hand to small companies, so we really believe in this Manifesto. We aim to live these values and engage continuously with our clients so that LawBite is a dynamic and responsive offering.

We will listen, we are flexible and adaptable to customer need.

Does that sound different? We hope so. If it sounds like the law firm of the future, a law firm you would actually enjoy dealing with, then we invite you to be in touch, try out our Lawbite contracts or receive 15mins free advice.

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