The phrase small claims court may have the word “small” in it, but tackling a court case even in the sub-$25,000 range is no minor matter for many small and medium sized businesses.
The time and hassle associated with dealing with legal documents and proceedings is certain to disrupt many business owners and billable rates for lawyers, often ranging from $100 to upwards of $300 and hour, is bound to send a chill down the spine of many budget constrained SMB operators.
Thankfully, a Toronto-based online business called My Legal Briefcase offers to help individuals and businesses get their papers in order for an application before the Ontario Small Claims Court (OSCC) for as little as $24.99.
With the service’s basic offering, clients are presented with an online questionnaire which they fill out with details about their claim. A proprietary program then uses these answers to fill in the necessary forms that will be submitted to the OSCC. The user can then print the form and file their claim before the OSCC. My Legal Briefcase also offers other services that include legal advice and step-by-step instructions on how to pursue a claim.
The business is the brainchild of Monica Goyal, a young Toronto attorney who studied electrical engineering with emphasis on computer graphics at Stanford University before getting a law degree at the University of Toronto.
“Many lawyers used technology in their work. I realized that there are certain processes that can be optimized and yet rendered for a lesser price with the use of software solutions,” said Goyal.
The lawyer thought of creating My Legal Briefcase after learning about the hardships faced by other entrepreneurs and start-up owners, Goyal decided to concentrate on small claims court cases because she felt this was an area where her type of discount service could create a bigger impact.
“Many people or small businesses are intimidated by the prospect of going to court because they find the jargon and procedures very complicated and the cost very restrictive. I want to help bring both things to their level,” Goyal said.
Dynamic forms and lawyer-assistance
But Goyal says My Legal Briefcase is the first of its kind, at least in Toronto.
For starters, she said many businesses use “standardized templates” for their electronic forms. The legal documents generated by My Legal Briefcase are “dynamic” and change depending on the answers provided by clients during the Q&A segment of the procedure, Goyal explained.
Then, aside from the forms, My Legal Briefcase also offers additional services.
The service’s Pro version that goes for $99 offers the following:
- A review of the clients form by My Legal Briefcase’s legal staff
- Help with completing professional small claims forms to show details of client’s claim
- Step-by-step instructions on how to proceed with client’s case
- Small claims court guide on how to make the best impression before the judge
- Timely email reminders about important milestones regarding the case
The Performance version which is priced as $249 offers the following:
- One hour consultation with My Legal Briefcase’s legal representative ($99/hour for each additional hour)
- Documents specially tailored to client’s case prepared by legal representative
- A legal letter to the person the client is suing
- Professionally filled-in OSCC forms that show all relevant details of the claim
- Step-by-step instructions on how to proceed with the case
- Guide on how to make the best impression before the judge
- Timely email reminders about important milestones of the case
Efficiency and cost savings are two crucial reasons driving the adoption of technology offering services such as online forms and collaboration applications, according to Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst.
Related story – Limitations of software-as-a-service
“These tools help standardize processes and cut down time by not reinventing the wheel each time,” he said.
Levy said in many cases, Internet-based services such as electronics forms generation, online billing like FreshBooks, and online tax filing like UFile are a boon for business owners who have to tackle chores outside of their own expertise.
“Things such as the law, accounting and taxation are often outside the core of competency of most SMB owners. It makes sense for owners to a software-as-a-service program rather than go it alone,” he said.