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By Julian Matthews

July 31, 2000

LegalStudio: Now you can get divorced online

Spouses of rabid Internet users in Hong Kong may be in for rude shock soon.

HONG KONG - Online legal services start-up reports that one of its most popular downloads since it launched in June is do-it-yourself divorce kits.

Although the company carries the disclaimer that the "kit is only helpful if you and your spouse have agreed to divorce without argument", it seems highly unlikely that customers forking over HK$400 for the quickie, no-questions-asked kits online have reached such amicable consensus.

LegalStudio president and co-founder Milton Kiang said that the pick-up rate for its low-cost divorce solutions was just one indicator of the pent-up demand for online legal services in the region.

"Before we came along, many individuals and businesses would not have been able to afford legal help, or they would have been too intimidated by the law to seek redress. We make legal solutions very affordable and highly accessible to them so that they can help themselves," he said.

Apart from divorce papers, LegalStudio also hosts DIY kits on bankruptcy, marriage, work visa and wills as well as standard documents for Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Letter of Intent (LOI), deed poll and shareholder's resolution. If you need to consult with a lawyer, will also put you in touch with one of its "legal affiliates".

Kiang said he struck on the idea for a fee-based 24-hour online legal service while he was an in-house legal counsel with Intel Asia Pacific in Hong Kong.

"I set up an internal website to answer legal questions from my colleagues and realized how much I relied on email to deal with internal clients and legal professionals from law firms," he said.

Although lawyers seem to be the least net-savvy professionals in the region, Kiang believes it is inevitable that the legal industry would head the way of manufacturing and entertainment in an increasingly Internet-reliant world.

"Legal portals have been around in the US for a number of years already and lawyers do recognize the changes. While some support the new, Internet-enabled offerings, others scoff at them," said Kiang.

"We hope to change the way some legal solutions have been traditionally provided and transform the relationship between lawyers and the Internet".

Kiang estimates the legal services market in Asia is worth some US$20 billion, but less than one percent of it is online at the moment. "We are here to facilitate the crossover, and even if we get just a fraction of the market, we will be doing quite well."

Last month, Hong Kong-based venture capital player and incubator Ltd pumped in US$2.5 million for a 25 percent stake in the company.

Published in ZDNet

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