Rocket Lawyer (RL) has hired Sumit Malhotra as its CTO from Big Four firm PwC where he was SVP Engineering. CEO, Charley Moore, told this site the major hire will help with RL’s mobile phone-focused legal services strategy, which is central to its growth plans.
In a detailed interview Moore (pictured) also noted that an IPO, which rival LegalZoom has already undertaken, was ‘an option’ and that ‘we could be a successful public company’. They are also expanding into South America with a new base in Brazil.
But back to mobile legal services.
A number of law firms have dabbled with phone apps, but they remain quite limited. Moore’s vision is that mobile will become increasingly central to consumer and SME legal needs, with everything they offer, from document creation, to legal advice, to esignatures and access to your documents, all via the mobile.
‘Most small businesses and consumers do not use desktops. They do all their computing with a phone. It’s their only access point, they operate through the phone and apps,’ Moore explained.
RL wants to be part of this evolution by placing legal services right in people’s hands. They’ve already rolled out a number of mobile-native services in the US and will now do the same in the UK, the world’s second-largest legal market.
Moore noted that this has not been easy, given the limited computing power of some mobile phones and also their size. This has meant that a lot of effort has been put into building the cloud capabilities of their service.
They’ve also had plenty of physical design challenges to overcome, e.g. how do you fill in doc templates when the screen is just a few inches across? But they’ve got where they need to be and are very focused on growing this.
‘Our goal is to democratise access to justice, so we need to be great at this [mobile strategy]. We have mobile apps for the US now, and in 2022 we will have them for the UK,’ Moore added.
‘This has been a big investment for us. [But] we’ve made it possible to create contracts, have them reviewed by lawyers, and get them signed, all through a mobile [phone],’ he explained.
Moore added that phones have several additional benefits aside from being central to everyone’s lives now. He noted that they have cameras and can naturally respond to voice commands. Overall then, it looks like mobile lawyering in the consumer and SME sectors is set for a boost. Will it also take off in Big Law, or remain a niche activity among larger law firms? That remains to be seen, but the pioneering work of RL could perhaps inspire more activity in this area.
And in relation to the new CTO, Moore added in a separate statement: ‘The Pandemic laid bare the severe shortcomings of traditional, legacy legal processes that depend on physical presence. Our team is energized to collaborate with Sumit to build the modern, natively digital platform for legal documentation, electronic signatures, professional advice and compliance services that will bring the tools of justice within reach of nearly everyone.’
Malhotra added: ‘I look forward to helping make legal help more accessible to people globally via our Rocket Legal Cloud platform. Rocket Lawyer continues to be one of the most innovative companies in Legal Tech, with exciting initiatives underway, including technologies that I’m very passionate about, like data science, AI and Machine learning, crypto and blockchain applications.’
On that last point about blockchain, the company added that its well-publicised ‘Rocket Wallet’, first mentioned in 2019 – and which would potentially enable crypto payments and the use of the Ethereum blockchain – has now launched, and ‘will enable customers to make legal transaction payments more seamless and convenient’.
As noted, RL has also now begun its expansion into South America. They have launched in Brazil – a country with major legal needs, but with a justice system that is currently straining under demand and has a huge court backlog.
RL will work in Portuguese there, and they will use the base in Brazil to co-ordinate expansion into the rest of South America – which of course is Spanish-speaking. Although that should not be a massive leap, as RL already operates in Europe in Spain, France and the Netherlands, so they are very adapted already to multi-lingual approaches.
In terms of offering legal services, they can do this already via affiliated lawyers who provide advice, but in the UK they also have their own lawyers on staff. They have also taken up the ability to do the same in Utah in the US, and plan to do this in Arizona.
Moore added that he believes that there will be ‘a wave of other US states’ that follow the same path to allow businesses that are not owned by lawyers to provide regulated legal services to the public.
One other point that really struck this site is that ‘1 in 9 Americans have a Rocket Lawyer account’ and that several large companies now give their staff a RL account as part of their benefits package, i.e. along with dental insurance and gym membership. Salesforce is one such company that does this.
‘Staff use this for personal situations, such as pre-nups, or stock incentive schemes,’ Moore noted.
And finally, with regards to a potential IPO at some point in the future, they are not in any immediate need of more cash as last year they raised $223m. That huge haul of capital should keep them going for a while yet, but it’s interesting that Moore – who is a securities lawyer by background – was enthusiastic about the idea, even though there are clearly no immediate plans to do this….just yet.
Overall, Rocket Lawyer seems to be doing well, and as Moore said ‘we had a very good 2021’. They now have increased their commitment to the idea that mobile phones will become the focal point for legal services for many people, and their global expansion continues.
The company started in 2008 and helped to shake up the B2C / B2SME legal world, and it looks like the 2020s are going to be another decade of continued growth and evolution for them.