Google Patents, Google Scholar and now Google Law?

It was announced on Aug. 11 that Google Ventures dropped $18.5 million into Rocket Lawyer, an online company that provides legal forms. So this raises the question: Will we be seeing Google Law in the near future?

Google and the law
Google has set itself up as a leader in information gathering and dissemination, including in the legal arena. Google Scholar, for example, gives its users the option to search legal opinions and journals. Google Patents, although still in beta, contains the entire collection of patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Google converted them into easy-to-search files, not unlike what it does with Google Books, some of which includes legal titles. The advantage here is familiarity with the interface. I mean, who doesn’t use Google?

Rocket Lawyer
Over 15 million small businesses and consumers have used Rocket Lawyer’s Web-based, do-it-yourself tools and legal plans. Each month, more than 20,000 last wills and 40,000 business contracts are created using the site’s step-by-step interview process. Rocket Lawyer helps users create customized legal documents that can be electronically signed online and shared instantly or downloaded for printing. For $19.95 a month, members have access to free document reviews from local attorneys and deeply discounted rates on legal fees for more complicated legal services.

For lawyers looking to drum up clients, Rocket Lawyer offers lawyer memberships for $89.95 a month or $899.95 a year. This turns you into one of the real lawyers that clients can contact.

What can we expect?
Now keep in mind, this is an investment, not a purchase. LexisNexis invested $2.1 million in 2008, the same year Rocket Lawyer launched, and Growth Capital Investment followed a year later with $7 million. So really, I doubt we’ll be seeing Google Law anytime soon. But it sure can’t hurt Rocket Lawyer having Google on its list of investors. But as the Law Librarian Blog wondered, how does a website create an attorney-client relationship?

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

W. Blake Wilson, Head of Instructional and Research Services