Australian legal tech startup, Legaler, has thrown lawyers around the world a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing over $2 million worth of free software licences to its secure online meeting platform for legal professionals who have been forced to abruptly transition to remote work.
Legaler was one of the first software companies to offer a response to the pandemic, first by providing the offer to solo lawyers and small firms, and later extending it to the broader legal industry. Legaler provides an encrypted and secure in-browser meeting tool that makes it easy for clients to meet with their lawyer without having to download an app or install a plugin. Combining tools to schedule, host, and archive meetings all in one place, the platform is designed for the legal industry, with all meetings and notes able to be linked to a matter number and seamless integration with matter management software like Clio for billing.
Now used by over 7,000 law firms in over 100 countries, Legaler’s adoption is heralding a new era of the virtual law firm, which fully integrates a booking tool, document exchange, and video conferencing. The ‘virtual law firm’ concept is quickly gaining traction amongst legal professionals and is likely to become the new normal, and is even becoming a crucial part of the education of the next generation of lawyers. Kenton Brice, Director of Technology Innovation at University of Oklahoma, whose law students have been using Legaler, says that “taking advantage of Legaler has allowed our students to utilize a real-world legal technology… giving them a slice of the remote-working attorney experience while in law school.” The widespread adoption of remote legal practice has been helped in large part by offers like Legaler’s, which are enabling law firms to continue delivering their services amidst unprecedented lockdowns across the US and the world. For some lawyers, like Thomas Burton, an Estate Planning Specialist who often deals with elderly or high-risk clients, COVID-19 has meant a total loss of opportunity to meet with clients. “My office building shut down access to all visitors except tenants, therefore switching to virtual meetings has been my only option” says Burton, adding that Legaler has been a “godsend” for his practice.
Despite the many shifts that COVID-19 has brought to law firms, there remain significant procedural and technological challenges that the likes of Legaler are driving the response to. In his state of Wisconsin, where wills cannot be executed by e-signature, Burton joins the lawyers looking to the many other states that are rapidly passing laws to allow such arrangements. Technological restraints impact legal business, too, with widespread scrutiny of critical security issues of some large video conferencing platforms, including Zoom.
The restrictions on in-person meetings has also detrimentally impacted access to justice by limiting the work of legal services organisations, who often don’t have the budgets to maintain adequate technological infrastructure. As Legaler had recently run a successful virtual legal clinic pilot with the Supreme Court of Tennessee and Vanderbilt Law School, the team were able to quickly help other organisations go ‘virtual’ in order to continue providing their valuable services at a time when society’s disadvantaged need them the most. One such organisation benefiting from Legaler’s offer has been Juripop, a newly formed nonprofit in Quebec that is tasked with providing victims of domestic violence and workplace sexual harassment with free legal assistance. Their growing network of over 70 lawyers is now able to have a greater impact by servicing a wider audience more efficiently through virtual means. Catherine Descoteaux, one of the lawyers behind the initiative, says “using a reliable video conferencing tool like Legaler has allowed us to continue a vital service to the community because sexual violence and abuse in the workplace persist despite social distancing.”
Legaler is continuing to grow at a time of significant disruption which will ultimately drive further innovation and adoption of cloud and remote technologies beyond the pandemic. Its $2 million donation of software has enabled lawyers, legal aid clinics and law students around the world to continue delivering the important services that we relyThe on.