Startup Law

Startups undervalued, underserved, by legal profession

The legal profession’s reluctance to embrace new technology, and the efficiencies that come with it, is hurting startups,  according to MoneyPlace compliance officer Megan McMullan. 

Prior to joining MoneyPlace, McMullan spent time working with Melbourne-based law firm Holley Nethercote, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), and Macquarie Group.  She’s worked with fintech startup clients at Holley Nethercote and ASIC, and is now helping build one at MoneyPlace. These experiences have given her a unique perspective on the birth of the fintech industry and the problems startups face when trying to get legal advice.

At LawAdvisor’s first LawHack in Melbourne on Wednesday night, McMullan explained what she had learnt about the future of law, from her time working in the fintech industry. 

“I look back at when I started at the bank, the very manual processes that were in place at that point and the way technology has been able to revolutionise the big players, as well as the more innovative firms that are coming in and truly disrupting the space,” McMullan says.

“So the opportunity is huge for law. The legal profession hasn’t quite worked out how to use the technology yet. It’s still something a lot of law firms are struggling with. The idea of just applying templated documents online, is something many people get very scared of.”

This reluctance negatively impacts startups looking for legal advice within a system that doesn’t value them.

“The existing model is very ill served to find startups and make it worthwhile for lawyers to put the effort in,” McMullan says.

“It’s the old cliche, it’s harder to get a new client than to look after an existing client. So you’re an ambitious young senior associate who’s looking to make partner soon.

“You don’t need to go out there and find 20 startups who will all need the same sort of business set up advice, because it might not be particularly interesting if there aren’t exciting legal questions to sink your teeth into. But also because they’re reasonably low value clients at that stage of their development.

“Now two of those 20 clients may go on to do massive things and be really exciting but some of them, dare I say the majority of them, won’t.”

McMullan believes that through the adoption of technology, and as automation makes doing law much cheaper, more lawyers will look to tailor their services for startups. An example might be a “Startup in a Box” product that the MoneyPlace team wishes they had access to.

“It says here’s how you set the company up, here’s how you make sure your directors are appropriately appointed. Basic things like that. Things that if you’ve never run a company or business before, you just wouldn’t even consider,” McMullan says. 

“So it’s really that gap between what your clients don’t know they don’t know, and the most efficient, easy and user friendly way to give them that information.”

Interested in building your own ‘Startup in a Box’ package of legal services? List it on LawAdvisor’s startup marketplace.