LawUnlocked: Richard van Helden

LawUnlocked: Richard van Helden


The law online

LawUnlocked is a groundbreaking web-based legal resource that took advocate Richard van Helden and his business partner, tech specialist Pancho Harding over four years to build.

They launched the business in 2009, having spent nights and weekends developing it while still employed. Van Helden estimates that they invested R6,5 million worth of professional time into the service, which is why they refused to hand over any shareholding and instead bonded their homes to the hilt to fund its launch.

“I spotted the gap in the market while I was in commercial litigation,” says Van Helden. “I’d seen people start a business without putting the underlying legal structures in place, largely because it took time and was costly for small businesses. Our solution makes it possible for business owners to do an online interview that results in a legal contract tailored to each client’s circumstances, at a fraction of the fees charged by law firms.”

Van Helden stresses that this is not a contract template repository. The unique system takes advantage of the fact that much of the law around contracts is based on choices between standard clauses. LawUnlocked has taken South African law, and used IT and complex database technology to automate the process of creating a contract.

“The system uses a decision tree to enable clients to pick the correct clauses. Users are only asked questions which are relevant to their own needs.”

The response to the offering has been extremely positive, particularly from the corporate market. The next growth phase will see LawUnlocked developing a product targeted specifically at providing added value for small business owners. –

Vital stats

Players: Richard van Helden, Pancho Harding
Company: LawUnlocked
Launched: 2009
Contact: +27 (0)21 813 6938

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.