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Shake for Android Is Here: Time to Burn My J.D.?

By William Peacock, Esq. on October 03, 2014 9:46 AM

Last year, when Shake debuted, I quipped that we (lawyers) just got replaced by a contract-drafting app. Fortunately, our execution was stayed for a bit -- it took over a year for the app to make the leap from iOS (iPhone and iPad) to the wider world of desktops and Android devices.

Alas, the day of reckoning is at hand: The Android app dropped yesterday. Is it time to burn my bar card and Juris Doctorate? No, not in the least, and not just because there will always be criminals to defend and apps really don't do that (yet).

Shake is a good first step, an app with potential that could come in handy (right now) for a few folks, but it's nowhere near catching up to the dozens of online DIY legal form providers -- yet.

Testing the Android App

Installation? Easy, plus the file size is only a couple of megabytes. The program crashed on my first launch, but hasn't done so since. My first impression was a bit of surprise -- there's not a whole lot of variety to the 13 included template documents at this point.

When you pull up a template, you are greeted with a friendly "fill in the blanks" approach to legal document drafting. It's easy, handy, and signing the document to make it extra official is done easily on a touchscreen.

Where the app comes up short is where every other productivity app for a phone does too: Who wants to type long documents on a cell phone screen? This isn't a big deal at all if you're sticking to a template, but with only a few templates included, you may be tempted to draft a whole new contract in the app -- an undertaking you'll quickly regret.

Minor issues I noticed in my 30-second attempt to draft something: no spell check (though Android keyboards should handle most of that) and when I changed the title of my document, then went to sign, it still had the original title -- a minor bug that isn't surprising in a first-day release.

A Whole Lot of Promise

It may sound like I'm unimpressed, but that couldn't be further from the truth: This is a hell of a concept. It's just the first edition of concept and it needs some work.

Obviously, more templates would help. You could probably find quite a few recent law grads who are desperate for work who would gladly draft templates that could be included with the app.

As for drafting from scratch, my big suggestion would be to have a sort of cut-and-paste feature for common contract provisions: governing law, time and place for performance, whatever. Each, of course, would need plain-English explanations in order to be useful to consumers. But you need something more than a blank white screen -- even pre-made chunks of legalese beats leaving them to make it up on their own.

To sum it all up: This free app is going to be a godsend for low-stakes minor contracts (a freelance web design gig, a one-night AirBnB rental) when hiring a lawyer isn't cost-effective. But the (so far) limited feature set means my J.D. is safe ... for now.

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