Creating an Online Legal Tool

October 25, 2011

LE: What is The Law Wizard?

TH: The Law Wizard is our company and our first product is called ‘The Probate Wizard’ – an online probate tool for the public and legal professionals. It will guide a member of the public through the probate process step by step, compiling key probate and inheritance tax forms, compiling letters and offering guides, videos and more. ‘Phase one’ is purely for the public. Professionals will be added to the mix next year. We’re not a law firm so, apart from our guides and videos, we won’t be giving legal advice, and we’ll be directing potential users to solicitors and others if the estate is disputed or particularly complex.

LE: Probate lawyers are not known for being drawn towards innovation. What first drew you, Tom, to the idea of working on online tools?

TH: You’re right that probate is not an area associated with innovation! This was one factor that drew me to the idea, because so little has been done to make the probate process easier for the public. It was the nagging thought that things could be better that eventually led me and Rob to give up our jobs and begin work on an online probate tool.

LE: At the risk of making you sound like a married couple, how did you two get together?

TH: Rob and I have been friends for years, but it was an idle comment in one of York’s many lovely pubs (of course!) that got the ball rolling. Over the coming weeks and months, The Law Wizard and The Probate Wizard began to take shape, mostly in the form of scribbles on backs of beer mats. It’s true that a start-up company with two founders will always be a bit like a marriage, but I’m glad to say that it’s going smoothly so far!

LE: So, Rob, what was it about legal practice, of all the areas you might have become involved in, that attracted you?

RB: It was the chance to apply the technology that I had been working with for many years to a sector that I could see had great potential for innovation. During our initial talks about the business, we discussed the current document creation services available. Whilst extremely clever, we felt they didn’t really help in the scenario where there is a legal process, not just a document to fill in. We also felt that they didn’t really focus on the things that make the web what it is today. In-depth content, social media integration and great looking interfaces are becoming the norm. From day one we have placed great focus on ensuring that our product delivers in these areas, to enhance the user experience of performing a legal task on-line.


More generally, there has never been a better time to be a technology start-up. The rise of cloud computing means it is now possible to develop exciting and innovative technology and deliver it on a scale that only a few years ago would have been prohibitive due to the up-front capital requirements of buying the required hardware.


LE: You talk on your web site about breaking down the barriers to legal services, what do you mean by that? What barriers and is this a threat to lawyers?

TH: It’s our way of saying that, in this day and age, legal services could and should be more accessible. Technology and the internet offer fantastic opportunities, not only for the public but also for legal professionals. It has never been our intention to cut out the lawyer. Quite the opposite, in fact; we see a rosy future for lawyers who are looking to move with the times, and we’ve met plenty who are looking to do just that. That’s why we’re developing a professional side to The Probate Wizard, which we’ll release details of next year.

LE: How far along in development are you?

TH: We’re entering the final stages of development and testing of the public version of The Probate Wizard. It’s due for launch early next year.

LE: Is this more than just a document creation tool?

TH: Very much so. Probate is a prime example of the limitations we see in most document creation tools. Probate is a process (like so many legal tasks), involving not only documents but also analysis of a will or the laws of intestacy, the valuation of an estate, calculation of inheritance tax exemptions, visiting a probate registry, and so on. A document creation tool can’t do justice to the process, and that’s why we’ve built the Wizard from the ground up to be an intuitive, step-by-step tool with guides, videos and so much more. Document creation is just one part of it, and we think this is the best model for online legal services.

LE: If you do build ‘better mousetraps’, how do you see yourself getting the message out there?

TH: Good question. Marketing is one of the toughest challenges faced by start-ups. We have confidence and pride in our system, but, for every fantastic product you’ve heard of, there’s another that never got off the ground for want of a decent marketing campaign. So, for the public, we’ll be spreading the word through various channels, including the Internet and printed media, backed up by a fantastic web site (coming soon!) and a fantastic product, even if I do say so myself!

LE: What’s your take on ‘Tesco Law’?

TH: The ‘Alternative Business Structure’ part of the Legal Services Act came into force recently with a bit of a whimper, but we’re convinced it will show its hand as a game-changer in the not-too-distant future. A lot has been written about supermarkets and companies such as the AA and Saga entering the legal services market (Co-op is already making moves). However, it’s the impact of the Act on innovation which has been much-underrated. Even before 6 October, companies such as The Law Wizard have begun to emerge, and law firms are beginning to develop systems to improve the service they offer to clients. It was the ‘threat’ of the Act which has spurred the sector into action. And it’s dawning on an increasing number of lawyers that, alongside the challenges, the Act offers fantastic opportunities.

LE: What next?

TH: The Probate Wizard for the public is due for release in early 2012, available from Next, our professional probate solutions, based on The Probate Wizard, due for launch later next year. After that, you’ll have to wait and see!