We (Lawyers) Just Got Replaced By a Contract-Drafting App
Contracts are often nothing but a series of boilerplate provisions copied-and-pasted together into a single signature-laden document, typically drafted and reviewed by a lawyer, who in turn, charges a pretty penny for her expertise. And while some unique situations might require a custom contact to be drafted from scratch, many other routine tasks, such as a sale of goods, can be handled through standardized piecemeal provisions.
Ladies and gentlemen, lawyers of all ages, meet your new nemesis: Shake. It is an app that creates simple contracts for routine tasks, such as non-disclosures, independent contractor agreements, and personal loans, on your iPhone or iPad. The startup company's CEO claims that $1 million worth of contracts have already been signed through the app since its debut last year, reports Gizmodo.
With fifty-three ratings on Apple's App Store, it currently rates at four and a half stars for all versions of the app. Fortunately for attorneys, it has not yet been released for Android or any other platform, though you'd have to imagine that cross-platform versions are coming soon.
The company just released the second version of the iOS app last week, which brought a prettier logo, more freelance agreements (specifically for graphic design, software development, writing, and photography), the ability to save incomplete drafts, and other improvements.
The Danger to Consumers
Jokes about our job security aside, we love the idea of an app that provides access to legal services in situations where hiring a lawyer may be unaffordable. What's the going rate for an attorney in your area anyway? Probably somewhere between $100 and $200 per hour on the low end, perhaps less for simple flat-fee arrangements, such as prepping a contract.
For freelance workers, handling small gigs worth a few hundred dollars at a time, it probably isn't feasible to hire an attorney to draft or review your agreements. If this app provides a quality alternative, especially a free alternative, that's certainly superior to working on a handshake agreement.
Conversely, for long-term or high value contractual relationships, considerations of enforceability of the contract, the parties' understanding of the terms of the contract, and the possibility of mistakes in a user-created document are extremely important.
The Danger to Lawyers
This is just the second version of this app. We've seen companies launch that provide do-it- yourself kits for simple legal tasks, and it's quite possible that they've taken away some business from practicing attorneys. Then again, many consumers, especially those with the means to pay for an attorney, do so for both piece of mind, and to guard against the dangers mentioned above.
This app, which seems brilliant (Argh, why iPhone only? The curiosity is killing me!), should provide a valuable service to those who likely wouldn't have paid for legal advice either way. The threat to our livelihood is minimal ... we hope.
One other idea: how about providing a low-cost "Shake Contract" draft-and-review service?
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- Will This Startup Change Legal Billing or Incite More Disputes? (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
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