Firm offers free legal templates

by Hannah Norton16 Mar 2015

A glaring need for early stage technology companies to get the legal basics right has motivated one boutique New Zealand firm to offer legal templates – for free.

Auckland and Wellington technology law firm Simmonds Stewart has published a range of over 40 legal templates for technology companies to use free of charge - documents many law firms would charge thousands of dollars for.

But partner Andrew Simmonds told NZLawyer it was a move unlikely to take business away from firms.

“The vast majority of commercial contracts and transactions entered into by businesses are completed with no involvement of lawyers, using templates of varying quality.”

“This is definitely the case in the technology sector, as there is a strong ‘do it yourself and cost saving culture in this field.”

Simmonds said the user notes in the templates encourage companies to seek legal advice in completing the documents, and the terms of use allow other lawyers to use any templates for clients who ask.

“We have had only positive feedback from other lawyers involved in the New Zealand tech sector.”

The firm was motivated to do the initiative after being approached by a number of early stage companies wanting to raise capital or sell, who proved to have their legal affairs in a state of disarray.

“Fixing things up before a transaction can be completed is time-consuming, expensive, and in some cases it results in companies failing to complete the deal.

“We found it extremely frustrating spending a client’s legal budget on fix up work, rather than on work that adds value to their business.”

The firm regarded it as an investment in New Zealand’s thriving technology industry; with many technology-orientated overseas firms providing starter parks to early stage companies, he said.

“Disruption is happening in all sectors of business and there is only one direction it will continue to go. In the legal fraternity, we want to lead this process rather than be left behind. Our initiative reflects a worldwide trend towards knowledge sharing.”

While the templates are best suited to technology companies as they fit the use cases most common in the sector, the templates are available for download by any company in any sector.

“From viewing our download data, the majority of users are in the tech sector, but we have had not for profits, traditional businesses, and government agencies downloading documents also.

“Both start-ups and established businesses can read through the documentation they need for actions they want to take. The templates are user-friendly with extensive notes and create a lot of efficiencies both for clients and for our firm.

First publishing a small selection of free legal templates in March last year, the firm has just put out six new commercial templates for tech businesses to cover key relationships with third parties, including a software reseller agreement and a software-as-a-service (SaaS) agreement.

“Since we launched the initiative, we’ve had more than 6000 downloads by over 1000 users. We had an overwhelming positive feedback from the Kiwi tech community, not only in New Zealand but from Kiwis involved in tech in Australia, the US and the UK,” Simmonds said.