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What is TinyLaw?

by Abe Geiger

Everyone knows about “BigLaw” — billion dollar deals, massive Fortune 500 lawsuits, armies of partners, associates, and paralegals, fancy offices with immaculate board rooms, etc.

We also know about consumer and small business law, or what you might call “SmallLaw.” This encompasses things like divorce, residential real estate, defending a DUI, or suing your neighboring business for damaging your property.

Of the $300B US legal market, roughly $100B is consumer and SMB and about $50B is accounted for by the 50 biggest white shoe law firms.

But what about the people who aren’t currently paying for legal services? The freelancers and small businesses who never consult a lawyer because the size of an individual transaction doesn’t justify the expense? What about the napkin contracts and the handshake deals that take place thousands of times every day?

At Shake, we’ve given a name to this “long tail” of the legal marketplace: we call it “TinyLaw” — and it’s actually anything but tiny.

We estimate that more than 3 billion “TinyLaw” transactions happen every year in the US alone (based on data from Craigslist, Freelancers Union, and the US Census). That number is growing like crazy and will continue to do so. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Freelancers and Independent Contractors – We are seeing a fundamental shift in the workforce towards what’s been described as “the gig economy.” According to the Freelancers Union over 42 million people can be classified as freelancers and this number is expected to grow to 60 million by 2020. This means that people’s professional lives will increasingly be governed by short-term contracts. These contracts will have to be lightweight, simple and affordable — or else they’ll become a friction point standing in the way of people earning a living.

2) Mobile Workforces – Thanks to constant connectivity and pocket-sized smartphones that pack incredible computing power, business can be done anywhere and anytime. In the early days of mobile we tolerated sub-par (or non-existent) mobile experiences. As the hardware and software have improved we have grown to expect more. Remember when email was something you only did at your computer?

Mobile is about much more than accessing content from anywhere. Designing for mobile forces dedication to simplicity and focus. It’s also about creating real-time, media rich experiences that can be better than the desktop experience. Contracts are about creating a “meeting of the minds” or a clear understanding of the value being exchanged. Incorporating images, video, audio, and location data into contracts can improve speed, understanding, accuracy, and security.

3) The Sharing Economy - People are becoming more and more comfortable  using peer-to-peer marketplaces to conduct their business, be it personal or professional. Airbnb and Uber are just two examples of this emerging “sharing economy,” which at its core empowers individuals and small business to offer goods and services to the world. The rise of the sharing economy will demand legal products and services calibrated to frequent, straight-forward, small-scale transactions.

TinyLaw is about helping people get deals done without getting screwed, and without the friction of traditional legal services. For TinyLaw, BigLaw and everything in between, understanding the dynamics of the changing economy, evolving workforce and new technology will be critical to the evolution of the legal services industry as a whole.

photo of Abe Geiger
Abe Geiger

Abe is the Founder and CEO of Shake. Prior to Shake, Abe held various roles at early-stage technology startups in both New York and the Bay Area. While in business school, Abe worked at two venture capital firms, Canaan Partners and Greycroft, sourcing and analyzing investment opportunities. During that time he co-founded the NYC Turing Fellows program to bring more engineering talent to NYC startups.

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