RocketLawyer Raises Cash from LexisNexis

RocketLawyer, a San Francisco-based lead generation startup that provides free legal information and forms to attract visitors, is $2.09 million closer to a $3.09 million Series B round, according to an SEC filing. More interesting is the single backer named in the filing: LexisNexis, the major compiler of legal and consumer information (and division of the Reed Elsevier Group PLC).

The investment is unusual for LexisNexis, which more typically gobbles up companies whole. For example, in 2007, it purchased Image Capture Engineering, an Omaha, Nebraska company that developed discovery document processing software. Months later, it bought Juris, a Brentwood, Tennessee startup that sold time, billing and accounting software.

I can’t say what’s behind LexisNexis’s investment in RocketLawyer, but Thomson Reuters-owned West Group, whose services include the online legal research tool Westlaw, has also been an aggressive in the marketplace over the years. Depending on your perspective, LexisNexis is trying to become, or remain, the top dog in the legal community. (There’s even a surprisingly funny Youtube video about its rivalry with Westlaw.)

At its site, RocketLawyer advertises that it can reduce the time required to complete typical legal documents to 10 minutes or less, at a fraction of traditional legal costs. It also offers a number of free promotions, including a living will. Rocket Lawyer also says that it makes it easy to work with a lawyer when necessary, completely online. “Lawyers get a free online profile and the tools they need to practice on the Web, delivering legal help to Rocket Lawyer users, completely via the Internet.”

The company, which claims to have more than 1.2 million users, has not yet responded to a request for comment about its funding. Seemingly, like most other lead-gen startups that spring up to collect the names of people looking for a service, RocketLawyer refers people seeking legal help to attorneys willing to pay the most for their business.

As an aside: RocketLawyer lists some corny testimonials at its site. Nancy M.. for example, says that “I got done what I set out to accomplish,” while Tammy S. is quoted as saying, “I appreciate the use of your site in helping me and my mom to obtain what we needed.”

While such widely used testimonies are legal, the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the U.S. ad industry, including customer endorsements, is proposing to change 28-year-old guidelines so force companies to be more detailed about what consumers can expect from a product.

The FTC began a routine review of the guidelines early last year. New comments are due by month’s end.