Rocket Lawyer advertises several free services online. Specifically, Rocket Lawyer’s
online advertisements include the following: 1) “Incorporate for Free. . . Pay No Fees ($0);” 2)
“Free. . .LLCs;” 3) “Free help from local attorneys” and “Free legal review;” 4) “Zoom Charges
$99. Rocket Lawyer is Fast, Easy, & Free. Incorporate Your Business Today;” and 5) “Free”
trials of Defendant’s “Basic Legal Plan” and “Pro Legal Plan.” Each advertisement either contains a link to Defendant’s website or is published directly on
Rocket Lawyer’s website.
Rocket Lawyer offers two types of subscription plans—a Pro Legal Plan with access to all of
Rocket Lawyer’s functionality, and a Basic Legal Plan, which excludes the functionality related to
forming or running a business. Rocket Lawyer also offers free trials of both plans for
seven days at no cost, provided that the consumer cancels the plan by the end of the seventh day.
If a consumer chooses not to cancel the trial plan by the end of the seventh day, the
trial converts to a paid version of the plan on the eighth day. Rocket Lawyer’s website
contains explanations of the terms of the paid plans and the free trials. The
explanatory pages for both plans contain information regarding the free trial and conversion to
subscription plans, including a toll free phone number a user could call to cancel the free trial
plan. The toll free number appears at the top of the registration pages.
Rocket Lawyer also has a Frequently Asked Questions section on its website devoted to questions
about the free trial including details about the different ways a customer can cancel any plan.
All members enrolled in a free trial or paid Pro Legal Plan receive free incorporation
services, meaning that Rocket Lawyer does not charge a fee for its services in assisting in the filing
and processing of incorporation or entity formation papers. Members enrolled in
Rocket Lawyer’s free trial or paid Pro Legal Plan who require incorporation services pay only the
state-mandated filing fees, which Rocket Lawyer discloses at various stages of its incorporation
interview prior to requiring any payment information. The state fees are also
disclosed on the incorporation and entity formation page of Defendant’s website, and at other
points prior to the customer inserting any credit card information. LegalZoom adamantly
disputes the adequacy and conspicuousness of these disclosures.
Rocket Lawyer’s subscription plans include access to Defendant’s “On Call” attorneys who
can provide legal advice or live consultations, answer written questions, and review legal
documents. Outside of the On Call program, registered users, whether on a free trial
or a paid legal plan, can contact an attorney for a free consultation. LegalZoom argued in a California Court that after it filed its original complaint, Rocket Lawyer changed its On Call program to allow
customers enrolled in a free trial to have access to one free legal consultation as opposed to
reserving that service for paying members. However, Rocket Lawyer maintains that
Plaintiff’s complaint did not prompt it to change the terms of the program.
Rocket Lawyer Business Model
By Tom McNichol. He is a San Francisco-based freelance writer.
Many online legal services companies are competing for business today — but Charley Moore wants Rocket Lawyer to be the go-to website for this market.
(In the) offices of the online legal services company Rocket Lawyer (in San Francisco), workers quietly tap away at their computers, while smaller teams meet in glass-enclosed conference rooms – one of which features a movie poster for the courtroom drama The Verdict. A large, open space houses a call center staffed by more than a dozen customer service employees, who purr in the reassuring tones used at law offices everywhere: “When you reach out to that attorney, I’m sure they can help you with that. …”
Presiding over all of this is Rocket Lawyer’s founder and CEO, Charley Moore – who exudes both the entrepreneurial energy implicit in rocket and the calm rationality of lawyer. Throughout his career, Moore has kept one foot firmly planted in the legal world, and the other in start-up land.
Moore’s first job as a lawyer, during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, was in Silicon Valley at Venture Law Group, a pioneering firm whose clients included emerging tech start-ups such as Yahoo, Hotmail, and WebTV Networks.
Moore later launched his own start-up, Onstation, to serve the automotive industry, then sold the business to a digital marketing company.
Moore’s experience both as an entrepreneur and as an attorney for start-ups convinced him that something was missing in the market – namely, a simple and affordable way to handle common legal situations. So in 2007 he launched Rocket Lawyer. A true entrepreneur, Moore put his own money on the line to fund the business, risking personal bankruptcy if it failed. And like a true lawyer, he protected his idea, securing U.S. Patent No. 8,255,800, “Systems and methods for facilitating attorney client relationships, document assembly and nonjudicial dispute resolution.” Rocket Lawyer was in business.
“The legal system … ran out of gas in the latter part of the 20th century,” Moore says. “The physical, paper-based system couldn’t keep up with the increasingly electronic commercial economy. Now, the Internet is helping the legal system be more efficient at what it was already doing. But it’s also bringing more cases and controversies into the legal system … The majority of the people who use our network have never interacted with a lawyer before. Ever. That, to me, is the big idea.”
With a deep, resonant voice and an easy laugh, Moore, 48, turns evangelical when discussing his “big idea,” serving consumers and small-business owners who have never hired a lawyer before because of cost or complexity.
Currently, more than 25 million people and 4 million business owners use Rocket Lawyer to create custom legal documents, connect with a lawyer, incorporate a business, draft a will, or handle other common legal situations, such as bankruptcy or divorce. The company has secured nearly $51 million in funding from venture capital firms, including Google Ventures. Last year, according to Moore, Rocket Lawyer pulled down revenue of nearly $30 million, and the company has twice made Inc. magazine’s list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies. However, the company has yet to show a profit.
Rocket Lawyer is hardly the only company these days hoping to offer legal services online and connect people with attorneys. (See about virtual legal services here).
“I always wanted to be a lawyer from really early on,” Moore says. “I was on a trial team in high school that won the Missouri mock trial championship, and that made a big impression on me.”
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in history, he worked briefly in the Washington, D.C., area as a research assistant on a naval logistics study until Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He immediately volunteered to serve in what became Operation Desert Storm. Before the war was over, Moore applied to law school; he earned his JD from UC Berkeley’s law school in 1996 and was admitted to the California bar the same year.
As a lawyer at Venture Law Group, one of his first clients was Yahoo. “I was working on exciting issues,” Moore recalls. “At that time, people still didn’t know answers to questions like, ‘Was content on the Internet copyrightable?’ And, ‘What are the defamation rules for online bulletin boards?’ There were so many things that are now taken for granted, precedents that didn’t exist. I was in love with it.”
Moore left VLG in December 1998, while the firm was still flying high, and he spent the next several years as an entrepreneur, building Onstation. He also saw how in the digital world, even a runaway success like VLG can suddenly founder. The dot-com collapse of the early 2000s nearly brought VLG down with it, and in 2003 the beleaguered firm was forced to merge with San Francisco-based Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, which in turn went belly-up five years later.
After Moore and his investors sold Onstation in 2006, he looked around for another entrepreneurial opportunity. He found it in the intersection of two passions: technology and the law.
“When I looked at the law, there really wasn’t anything in the cloud that could take a person from start to finish and back again with everyday legal matters,” says Moore. “The operative thing is in the cloud. Anything that can be digitized will be. It’s just too bone-crushingly efficient. When this idea came to me, everything else melted away.”
Unlike LegalZoom, Moore says, Rocket Lawyer from the start has integrated attorney services in the online consumer legal documents workflow, one of the discriminating features that forms the basis of his patent. Moore says LegalZoom was “late to the party” in offering users one-on-one consultations with licensed attorneys.
“The key difference between Rocket Lawyer and Legal Zoom is that attorneys are front and center as part of the Rocket Lawyer solution, and always have been,” says Moore, who had to convince his wife, Monique, to let him roll the dice on the venture, putting the family’s finances at risk. (She now directs Rocket Lawyer’s HR department as the company’s vice president of administration.)
Rocket Lawyer managed to generate $1 million in revenue in its first twelve months, a respectable sum for a start-up. It wasn’t long before outside investors saw the opportunity in Moore’s company: LexisNexis invested $2.1 million in 2009, and two years later Google Ventures, August Capital, and Investor Growth Capital kicked in a combined $18.5 million.
Rocket Lawyer offers do-it-yourself legal documents for users who don’t want an attorney’s advice – but connecting with legal help is encouraged and available. For $39.95 a month or $399.95 a year, Rocket Lawyer Legal Plan members can create, edit, store, print, and share as many legal documents as they want, getting step-by-step instructions along the way. They can sign their documents electronically and store them in the cloud on Rocket Lawyer’s servers, making for entirely paperless transactions. Members also get free help with quick legal questions and 40 percent off fees for attorneys linked through the site. New users are offered one free document and a one-week free trial membership.
(LegalZoom charges users a monthly fee, starting at $9.99, for consultations and document reviews with network attorneys.)
Certainly, Rocket Lawyer has its share of people who download a free document and never come back. But the site courts users who have recurring legal needs, such as small and medium-size businesses that need to incorporate, draw up contracts, protect intellectual property, and manage business disputes. Those companies find the monthly or yearly subscription an efficient and relatively inexpensive way to handle their ongoing legal needs. Currently, Rocket Lawyer processes more than 40,000 legal documents a day; the most popular are business contracts, and documents pertaining to family law.
Unlike many other online legal document services, Rocket Lawyer cuts attorneys in on the action, and the work lawyers do via the site can lead to more opportunities to represent clients. Self-help legal documents are fine for simple matters, Moore says, but some legal issues are so complicated, they demand professional advice.
“That’s why I put the word lawyer in the company name,” he says.
Any licensed attorney can post a free profile on Rocket Lawyer. Attorneys who want unlimited access to its warehouse of electronic legal documents and the site’s e-signature service can pay $39.95 a month, like any other member of the site.
Attorneys can also apply to be a Rocket Lawyer “On Call” attorney, a program that matches counsel with users, who get specific legal questions or issues addressed. There are roughly 530 On Call lawyers (about 100 from California), representing a range of practice areas, from real estate to employment law, with a particular emphasis on attorneys serving small and medium-size business owners. On Call attorneys get real-time client requests by phone or email, and a Rocket Lawyer representative helps to schedule a time for the parties to talk. (See “Rocket Lawyers On Call”.)
In March 2014, Rocket Lawyer launched the Attorney Task Board, a cloud-based client services tool that manages each On Call lawyer’s interactions with potential clients. Questions are limited to 600 characters, and responses are confined to 1,200 characters to simplify the interaction. The tool incorporates some of the technology Rocket Lawyer acquired last year when it bought LawPivot, a legal Q&A platform. Rocket Lawyer also added a Twitter-like feature to its mobile app that lets users submit brief questions to attorneys, who answer with advice.
Moore says the vast majority of Rocket Lawyer’s revenue comes from members who subscribe for access to attorneys.
In January 2014 Rocket Lawyer did settle a class action in Missouri alleging UPL. (Lemay v. Rocket Lawyer, Inc., Mo. Cir. Ct. No. 11SL-CC04557 (St. Louis Cnty.).) In the settlement, Rocket Lawyer denied any wrongdoing and agreed to pay up to $175,000 in cash or in-kind services to class members.
Moore says he doesn’t foresee additional UPL problems down the road. “Rocket Lawyer works just fine under the existing rules,” he says. “We’re not lobbying to liberalize the rules about who can practice law.”
Though Moore “wouldn’t rule out” taking Rocket Lawyer public some day, he says the company has sufficient venture capital to continue to grow and compete against rivals. And the best way it can grow, Moore believes, is to bring useful and affordable legal services to people and businesses who aren’t being served. If Moore can pull that off, it’ll be a big win for consumers – not to mention lawyers.
“There are tens of thousands of California lawyers who need more work, and millions of small-business owners who need legal services,” says Moore. “People need lawyers.”
Online Legal Services
Rocket Lawyers on Call
by Tom McNichol
To participate in Rocket Lawyer’s On Call program, attorneys must have up-to-date malpractice insurance and no State Bar disciplinary record, and agree to its terms of service. The free program requires attorneys to offer discounted rates to their new clients – 40 percent off their standard hourly fee or $125 per hour, whichever is greater. It also requests that the lawyers (gasp) list their regular hourly fee on the website.
“Having lawyers publish their fees online has added a ton of price transparency to the market,” says founder Charley Moore. “That’s one of the innovations I’m very proud of, and there was a lot of skepticism at first when we did it. We now have someone on the network who [offers to handle] a divorce for $250, complete.” On Call matches attorneys with users who have specific legal questions or issues. Some attorneys have found the program to be a valuable lead generator.
Rocket Lawyers Review
Rocket Lawyer is like having your own personal legal team to help you out with all your legal troubles. They feature a vast range of legal options to choose from and offer outstanding customer service to their members. If you are looking for a one-time legal fix, you might find it harder to utilize Rocket Lawyer’s services.
Rocket Lawyer’s pricing is much different than other legal services sites. They only offer membership fees, which is akin to having a legal team on hand at all times. If you have a lot of legal needs, this is actually a cheaper option in most cases.
A Basic Legal Plan gets you access to all of Rocket Lawyer’s personal documents for you and your family for $9.99/mo for the annual plan, or $19.99/mo if you want to pay monthly. The Pro Legal Plan gets you access to all of Rocket Lawyer’s business and personal documents for $33.25/mo for the annual plan, or $39.95/mo if you want to pay monthly. Both plans include a 7-day free trial and a 40% discount on Rocket Lawyer On Call, which connects you with local attorneys in your area.
If you are only looking for one-time legal services, Rocket Lawyer’s free membership can also be a cheap, helpful alternative, but it only includes preparation of one document and you will have to print and file the document yourself. You can also sign up for the monthly service and suspend your account after a month if you need to. Just make sure to call Rocket Lawyer and have your account suspended or your card will automatically be charged each month. Even with the one-time membership fee, this ends up being a much cheaper option than most other online legal services sites.
Rocket Lawyer is the Swiss Army Knife of legal services. First, they have the widest variety of services and forms that we saw when reviewing legal services. From forming a business to applying for a passport, Rocket Lawyer covers everything from big to small. In addition, they offer both do-it-yourself, downloadable government forms if you want to handle things yourself, as well as a preparation service that will complete and file the forms for you.
One of the greatest features that Rocket Lawyer offers is the free Legal Checkup. Once you sign up for the service, Rocket Lawyer will ask you to answer some questions in the free Legal Checkup to help them determine what forms you might be looking for. It’s a good feature to use if you are not sure how to proceed or what forms you’ll need.
Incorporation (C-Corp, S-Corp, LLC, non-profits), corporate changes and filings, real estate forms, patents and copyrights, business compliance forms and various other business forms and contracts.
Rocket Lawyer has three options of services to help you with your legal issues. The first and most simple is the downloadable forms. These are government forms that you can fill out and file yourself. Once you click on the form you want, Rocket Lawyer automatically downloads the form for you in an easy-to-use PDF format.
The second option is the coolest in our opinion. They are simple legal forms that you may still need assistance with. Once you click on the form that you want, Rocket Lawyer brings up a blank version of the PDF form in a window displayed underneath some questions you will need to answer in order to fill out the form. Once you start answering questions, Rocket Lawyer will start to auto-populate the answers into the PDF, giving you a completed form you can download and print out.
The third option is for those complicated legal forms, such as forming an LLC. Like most other legal services, Rocket Lawyer walks you through a series of questions about your business (or other legal issue) to narrow down what forms you will need and what information will need to be included on those forms. They will then assist you in filing those forms with the proper government agency.
All three options are extremely helpful and easy to use. In addition, Rocket Lawyer also constructs a home page for each of their members, which displays all the documents you are working on, as well as the next steps you need to take and your overall Legal Health Score, which is determined by how far you are in completing all your documents.
Since Rocket Lawyer has such a wide range of features, they have two forms of navigation to help you narrow down the forms you’ll need. The first is a menu at the top of the page that breaks down the documents into Personal and Professional, and then further breaks them down based on what kind of documents you might be looking for. If you are looking for something specific, this isn’t the best option. For that, you might want to use the search function, although this can be overwhelming because it usually returns a large amount of documents. Make sure to be specific when you are searching.
Rocket Lawyer offers many ways for their members to get in contact with them. Their toll-free number (available Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. PT) connects you to a maze of automated options, but once you get a representative on the phone, they are friendly and extremely helpful. The chat function on the site isn’t so much a chat function as a way for you to ask a question and get an automated answer, although it will allow you to email that question to a representative if you wish. All of the support options we tried out were quick, useful and friendly.
Rocket Lawyer is a well-organized, helpful service that makes filling out legal forms easy. Its vast range of documents and forms make it a great place to find all the specific legal documents you will need. And the membership fees make it a cheaper alternative for those looking for continuing legal advice. Overall, a very useful site with a lot of cool features.