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Dragons invest in legal services package for SMEs

8 April 2011

Dragons Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden have partnered with RBS and Natwest to launch a legal services package aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, working with document-assembly business Epoq.

The new service is an additional feature to Paphitis’s and Meaden’s Smarta business, founded three years ago, which offers a range of services, from website building to bookkeeping, marketed under the name of Smarta Business Builder.

Law firm Mishcon de Reya, which had been advising the founders, also has a small share in the business.

Two modules are available, a basic service for a £20 monthly subscription and a £30 service which include access to a legal helpline and other non-legal services. Both will be sold via RBS and NatWest – although not exclusively.

Unlike other similar services, such as the one run by the AA and Saga, where Epoq also built the legal document-assembly back end, Smarta’s legal helpline will be limited to providing general information about the types of documents required in certain types of situations. It will not at this stage provide access to a lawyer for document review purposes.

Epoq’s executive chairman told Solicitors Journal this was the sort of service that the Legal Services Act had anticipated, which could see advisers such as banks divert some of the legal work flow from law firms at source.

A spokesperson for Smarta said the idea with the Smarta Business Builder service was more to give SMEs a sound base on which to start operating.

Nick Davis, head of corporate at Mishcon, said the work the firm had done with Smarta had ignited existing interest in the SME market.

He said Mishcon was also looking at offering a basic bundle of legal services for start-ups, possibly for a few thousand pounds, to help small businesses get off the ground.

“We’re expecting a lot more people will become entrepreneurs on the back of the recession and this market should be growing,” he said.

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