Business of Law

Is Wal-Mart law coming to the US? Retailer adds lawyers on site for Toronto-area shoppers

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Shoppers at a handful of Wal-Mart stores in the Toronto area can consult with lawyers whose offices are conveniently on site.

The law offices are staffed by Axess Law, which aims to offer fast and affordable legal services to Wal-Mart shoppers, the Toronto Star reports. The newspaper visited a bright-orange Axess office at a Wal-Mart in Markham, Ontario, and spoke with law firm founders Lena Koke and Mark Morris.

“A lot of people are intimidated by lawyers,” Koke told the Star. “This is a non-intimidating setting.”

In Markham, the law offices are open seven days a week, until 8 p.m. Hours vary at some of the other offices, listed here. Evenings and weekends are the busiest times in Markham.

The firm charges $99 for a simple will, $25 to notarize a document, and $19 to notarize additional documents. Prices are lower because of the volume, Koke says.

The retail sites will also offer services in real-estate law and powers of attorney. Uncontested divorces will be added beginning in the fall. Other cases will be referred to other lawyers.

Koke and Morris hope to expand to locations throughout Ontario in the next two years and throughout Canada in the next four years.

FindLaw’s Strategist blog noted the story. “Will this model jump the border?” the blog asks. Its answer is, “Maybe.”

Wal-Marts in the United States could lease office space to lawyers or it could dive “into the DIY game” by selling form documents, the Strategist says.

“Take a legal system that prices services out of the reach of middle and low income individuals,” the blog says, “add in favorable rulings for legal services providers (like LegalZoom) that aren’t exactly law firms, toss in tens of thousands of unemployed lawyers, and you have an unserved market, a tempting business model, a cheap labor supply, and a distribution network already in place.”

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