Google-backed Rocket Lawyer launches in UK amid public spat with rival

Google-backed online legal services site Rocket Lawyer has launched in the UK days after US rival LegalZoom sued the site for its use of the word ‘free’.

Charles Moore, Rocket Lawyer
Charles Moore, Rocket Lawyer

LegalZoom, which is to launch in the UK later this year via an alliance with high street franchise QualitySolicitors (20 September 2012), filed a 14-page suit in California alleging false and misleading advertising, trademark infringement and unfair competition against Rocket Lawyer on 20 November 2012, days before the site’s offical UK launch in London on Wednesday (28 November).

In a press statement LegalZoom, which is being represented by founder Robert Shapiro’s former law firm Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, said: “Rocket Lawyer’s advertising includes the false claims that Rocket Lawyer provides ‘free incorporation’, ‘free legal review’, and ‘free help from local attorneys’ despite the fact that access to these ‘free’ services can require paying filing fees or buying a paid membership plan.”

Rocket Lawyer CEO Charles Moore, who has turned to Goodwin Procter for external legal advice, told The Lawyer that LegalZoom has “set out to tear down the competitor,” pointing to the likes of Facebook and Dropbox as evidence that “the world’s top websites offer something for free”.

The San Francisco-based site invites members to make their first online legal document free of charge after which it will offer a one-week trial. Individuals or small businesses can then opt for a fixed-fee service that gives access to Rocket Lawyer’s panel of 10 local firms, which so far includes Stephensons Solicitors, Richard Nelson and Berry Smith.

The legal document site, which launched in the US in 2008, is backed by Google Ventures, August Capital, Investor AB, and Industry Ventures and has raised over $25m in investments. LegalZoom was co-founded in 2001 by Robert Shapiro, the former Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro lawyer who defended American football star OJ Simpson during his murder trial in 1995.