Digital banking pioneer Starling Bank is to to offer ‘affordable legal services‘ to its 88,000 business customers through the Sparqa Legal online platform, which it will now provide to companies via a mobile phone app.
Sparqa – which Artificial Lawyer profiled in February – provides a legal document store, a bit similar to that seen with LegalZoom and RocketLawyer – but importantly it also provides ‘legal guidance’ on how to handle a variety of issues an SME may face, from how to fire an employee, to which contract to use for a new business premises.
It’s an interesting example of a digital bank getting into bed with a digital legal platform – both providing efficiencies to the customers.
How this will go remains to be seen, but Artificial Lawyer can see the appeal to SME-size companies of having a banking dashboard and an ability to download legal forms that come with useful guidance all in the same mobile app.
The team behind Sparqa is impressive and includes: Andrew Thornton, Founder and CEO – a barrister at Erskine Chambers, and also founder & CEO of FromCounsel and Juriosity; Michael Todd QC, Board Advisor – Legal – another barrister and head of Erskine Chambers, he was also former Chair of the Bar of England & Wales; Mark Paterson, Chair – Previously General Counsel of Orange and Chair of SwiftKey; and Richard Brennan, Board Advisor – Commercial & Marketing, part of the founding Executive Management Team of Orange, the telecoms company.
The bank said that Starling Business Account holders can sign up to Sparqa Legal on their mobile app, via the Starling Marketplace, giving them ‘access to 350 professionally-designed templates. This allows them to safely create and customise their own bespoke legal contracts, policies and documents’.
Customers also have access to ‘legal guidance on the day-to-day issues businesses face, to help them better understand the law and their obligations’.
Of course, this then raises the eternal question: is this providing regulated legal services? Well, only the UK’s SRA can decide that, but one guesses that if the former Chair of the Bar of England & Wales is behind this, then they’re probably on safe ground.
(Although in parts of Germany – see story – this kind of offering might not be quite so well received, following a move by local lawyers to prevent a document platform selling to customers without a lawyer involved.)
Andrew Thornton, CEO of Sparqa Legal, said: ‘At Sparqa Legal, we passionately believe that, armed with the right tools and resources, smart business managers can produce many of the simple legal documents they require. They can also find out about their rights, obligations and the best course to take.’
While Starling CEO and founder, Anne Boden, added: ‘It’s important that businesses safely navigate themselves through the legal obligations relevant to them and their specific industries. But increasingly businesses are looking to technology to help them solve old problems in new, innovative and cost-effective ways, which is why Sparqa Legal is a very welcome addition to the Starling Marketplace.’
Sparqa Legal is the tenth partner to enter the Starling Business Marketplace, joining Xero, FreeAgent, Digital Risks, CyberSmart, Tail, Flux, Nimbla, so sure, and Anorak, covering accountancy software, credit facilities, insurance and now legal services.