As some of you know, I'm at Thomson Reuters SYNERGY this week, which is basically a 1,300 person party for Thomson Reuters CS Professional Suite users.
I'll spare you the gory details of product demos and cheerful salespeople in bright orange shirts but I did want to share the big news out of this year's conference.
Those of you already using NetClient CS will soon have the option to offer self-serve legal and business forms to your clients, on a client-by-client basis.
LegalStreet already offers any Tom, Dick, or Susie DIY legal forms that used to require a lawyer. But now, some of those same forms will be made available to your clients through NetClient CS, at your discretion.
From the fact sheet:
Tax and accounting professionals work hard to ensure their business clients are in compliance with increasingly complex business requirements. And, many business owners share a need for access to simple resources that will help them ensure their business operations are compliant with tax and legal requirements.
As your clients’ trusted advisor, you can now expand your services by offering clients basic legal and business forms through our new NetClient CS feature— Legal and Business Forms, powered by LegalStreet. We’ve designed an easy- to-use online legal and business forms library that’s tailored for engagements with business owners. This new feature will include basic forms that are routinely needed when working with business clients; it’s not intended for managing complex legal areas or situations requiring legal advice or representation.
Again, the operative word here is "basic," as you wouldn't want your clients DIYing difficult legal matters anyway.
There are 25 forms available, from articles of incorporation to authorization to drug test an employee. We aren't talking complex legal matters such as divorce or, say, frivolous lawsuits. You'll still need a qualified legal professional for that. You can choose which forms each client has access to, just in case you have one or two dangerous clients who can't be trusted not to form an LLC drunk at 3 in the morning.
The reasoning here is that clients are doing this anyway, might as well point them to the form they need instead of expecting them to find it themselves.
Thomson Reuters will be offering an initial pilot program for the 2014 filing season, with a full commercial release planned for 2015. Those of you also in attendance at SYNERGY can head over to the Innovation Lab to let them know you want in on the pilot.
Naturally, there are a few skeptics who wonder about the legality of "offering" legal documents to tax clients (especially if you are billing them), but Thomson Reuters assures us there are no tricky legal issues in offering this service. As previously stated, you aren't actually providing legal services. And clients are doing this anyway.
What do we think of this? A few users I spoke to — on the condition of anonymity of course — were not planning on jumping head first into this. Then of course, we're dealing with tax professionals here, so it's not like we should expect all of them to jump on board with this new idea without considering the risks. After all, many of them are still billing by the hour (LOL).