We have been asked this question on a number of occasions and we think that it is important to provide a detailed response.
It is worth pointing out at the outset that a competent attorney will in most circumstances be able to cater for very specific requirements better than an online system. In time this gap will close but if, for example, you have a shareholders agreement and you want specific options for some shareholders or similar specific requirements, your attorney will be able to produce exactly what you require. Online systems are evolving but at this stage they do not cater for every possible requirement that a client may have and they also do not dynamically draft agreements in the same way that an experienced attorney would go about the process. The way that online systems work is that they offer you the ability to input data, often just information about the parties to the agreement and the like and they then have a series of variable fields that are used to build the contract within set parameters.
Legal teams that manage online legal platforms do have the benefit of ensuring that these contracts are up-to-date with current laws and that they are free of errors. There is much more to these contracts than just forms that are filled in. Good online legal platforms invest a tremendous amount of time on making sure that the contracts are compliant.
So online legal contracts are not a complete solution for complex contracts. Their space in the market lies more in the preparation of general contracts. We would put it at the low to middle of the road in terms of complexity. The benefit that online legal systems offer lies in price and speed. An experienced contract lawyer will be charging in the order of R4000 per hour, whereas a subscription to access every contract that you may require in your business, for a full year on an unlimited basis, will cost you under R1500. That is R1500 for unlimited use covering over 150 different contracts. Of course there are also inexperienced lawyers who simply charge for putting your information into one of their templates, perhaps at R2000 per hour. It goes without saying that online systems are a far better option than using inexperienced or average lawyers. As for speed, well your online legal system produces the contract immediately, whereas lawyers are known to take their sweet time.
So, your high value complex commercial transaction will still require the services of an experienced attorney, while maintaining your general compliance and updating contracts to take into account new laws is where online legal contracts are really beneficial.
The bottom line in the debate between old school lawyers and online legal systems is that it is a horses for courses situation.
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