Law On Earth is a unique self-service platform that helps users take control of their own legal matters, at a fraction of the cost of the traditional legal system.
CEO Katie Richards says she was inspired to create the platform after seeing the barriers that prevented people from accessing the legal support they need.
“The problem we have in Australia is that around 73 per cent of the population can’t afford legal assistance,” she says.
“I grew up with nothing in a small country town in North Queensland, and I saw the clear gap between the rich and the poor. It’s not just about the money – it’s an issue of self-worth. When you don’t have the legal resources to do what you want to do, then you can’t get ahead. I always thought that was desperately unfair.
“Australia created Medicare so we could make the healthcare system fair for everyone. I wanted to do the same thing for the legal system, so I created Law On Earth.”
People looking for information on business law, family law, property law, trademarks, patents, wills and estates and more can use Law On Earth to access hundreds of free articles and guides; prepare their own legal documents and contracts; register a company; and even connect with legal advisors in affordable video sessions.
Katie says the service has been particularly popular with business owners.
“What we’re finding is that while there are at least community legal centres and Legal Aid to help with family and criminal law, there are very few free legal resources to help local business owners,” she says.
“Through Law On Earth, many local business owners applied for a pro bono legal advice session. And once they had their initial advice and wanted more help down the track, they could book a video session for a very affordable price. What that means for a business owner is that, instead of staying awake at night feeling anxious about a potential legal issue, they can book a 20 minute session and find out whether or not it’s even something they need to be worried about.
“If it is, we’ll help them take the next steps from there, and then they can just book another session with an advisor when they’re ready to check their work. So it’s essentially cutting out 80 to 90 per cent of their legal costs, and they’re still getting the same outcome they would if they had a lawyer on retainer.”
Katie says she’s essentially been “building, trialling and rebuilding” the Law On Earth platform for the last six years, and she’s had to overcome some scepticism along the way.
“We were a little bit ahead of our time in terms of bringing a self-service legal solution to the online space,” she says. “People can be anxious when it comes to change so we had to educate them about what we were doing. And now it’s being embraced by the community, social enterprise sector and other professionals.
“The question was asked many times about the impact of us potentially taking work away from law firms. But the truth is the law firms are fighting over a quarter of the population. Law On Earth is accessing the other three quarters of the population that hasn’t been, and really can’t be, serviced by law firms without our help to minimise the time the clients need to spend with them, as time is money, and they lack money.
“It’s making the pool of potential clients bigger, because what we’re finding is that there are a lot of people who can afford to pay for a few video sessions, but they couldn’t afford to use a lawyer for 10 hours. So before Law On Earth, they wouldn’t have accessed legal support at all.
“Lawyers are also notoriously risk-averse, and pre-COVID, it was difficult to get them onto the platform. They would say, ‘How can you be a proper lawyer over a video call?’ COVID has obviously normalised the idea of video sessions, and made lawyers more comfortable with using the platform.”
At the peak of the pandemic, the Queensland Small Business Commissioner was referring businesses to the Law On Earth platform for pro bono support. Law On Earth also collaborated with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), who provided law students to assist with these cases.
Another significant breakthrough for Katie came when Law On Earth was awarded the 2019 Lord Mayor’s Business Award (LMBA) for Outstanding Micro Business.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to win a few different awards, but the only award logo we actually put on the platform to demonstrate our credibility is the LMBA logo,” she says.
“Because we know, at a minimum, that people in Brisbane and Queensland are going to see that logo and say, ‘I can trust this business. They’re genuinely here to help me.’”
Katie thinks the LMBA seal of approval helped Law On Earth to secure a national partnership agreement with Worrells Insolvency that will soon come into effect. The respected insolvency specialists are adding their expertise to the Law On Earth learning centre, and making their advisors available for video sessions.
“This partnership is going to be great for our users, because Worrells Insolvency is an insolvency firm that does a lot of work in the pre-insolvency space,” Katie explains. “In other words, they show you how to avoid ending up in an insolvency situation. So they’ll be offering users advice on how to structure their businesses and protect themselves from risk through the Law On Earth platform.
“This is something that’s going to be available for users all over Australia, and it’s something we’re going to be pushing hard to Chambers of Commerce and business accelerators all over the country, to let them know we have this free resource that could be very helpful for them. We already have 3,500+ users on the platform now, but I expect this partnership to boost those numbers.”
One of the most useful features of the Law On Earth platform is that it’s completely geo-tagged, which means users are only shown information that’s relevant to their location.
“When you sign up to Law On Earth, the platform can see your IP address, so it knows which state you’re in,” Katie says. “You can change it if you like – if you’re holidaying in New South Wales, for instance, but you want information that’s relevant to Brisbane. But the idea is that it only shows you the legal documents and guides that are relevant to your jurisdiction, and only connects you with relevant advisors.
“We did this because in a lot of cases, people are looking for answers to their legal situation on Google, and they have no idea whether the information they’ve found is relevant to them. A lot of people have no idea the laws change from state to state. So Law On Earth removes that ambiguity for people.”
Not only does Law On Earth cover each state in Australia, but it will soon be available to UK users, as well.
“That’s the next big step for the platform,” Katie says. “I’m headed to the UK in June to start launching the platform over there, and there’s going to be a capital raise that comes with that UK launch.”
Katie and her team are also adding new features to the Law On Earth platform, including webinars; business memberships to keep users informed on the latest legal developments; and concierge packages that will make it possible for users to engage lawyers for work through the platform that goes beyond the existing video sessions.
While the platform will soon be available to international users, Katie says the majority of the information in the Law On Earth learning centre is still geared towards Brisbane’s home state of Queensland – so she’s excited about the ongoing wave of interstate migration that’s expected to see Brisbane’s population growth surge by 43% over the next 20 years.
“The Law On Earth platform is ideally placed to provide value to all of the people and businesses who are making the move to Brisbane,” she says. “The majority of the guides in our learning centre are based on Queensland law, and the majority of the legal advisors who make themselves available to users through the platform are based here in this state, so we have a lot to offer people who are new to the state and need to familiarise themselves with our laws.
“I’ve been in Brisbane for 24 years now, and I’ve seen the city go through major changes. It’s so much easier to build a business here now than it was 10 years ago when I started my first business, Virtual Legal. There’s so much support for business now, in the form of funding and accelerator programs, and there are world-class business services at your fingertips.
“But I think the thing that really separates Brisbane from other cities is the lifestyle. Running a business is stressful, so as a business owner, you have to be conscious of your happiness and your health. That’s why Brisbane is perfect – we have the active outdoor lifestyle, we’ve got a lot of grants and programs here, and we’ve got great support networks in place for business owners.
“There are a lot of very successful entrepreneurs who live in Brisbane, and I know from experience that if I ever needed something, I could reach out to them and they’d be happy to help me.
“I think that’s quite unique to Brisbane. That’s why I make myself available to other business owners, too – to make sure we’re all helping each other up.”