Walk-in retail law center opens in Palo Alto | February 8, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 8, 2013

Walk-in retail law center opens in Palo Alto

CEO says gathering spot will make the law 'more accessible'

by Eric Van Susteren

Raj Abhyanker wants to change the public's perception of lawyers, streamline part of the legal process and resurrect the "Mainstreet bookstore" business model — all by opening a retail store in downtown Palo Alto that sells legal advice, books and tablets.

Abhyanker is the CEO of LegalForce, a company that aims to improve the access between lawyers and the public by using technology. He hopes his store, the LegalForce BookFlip, will transform the way the public looks at lawyers.

"We want people to realize that lawyers, like doctors, can provide help throughout various stages of life," said Abhyanker, who has a law degree, an MBA and a master's degree in electrical engineering. "Few people know where to turn for legal help. We solve this by letting the public walk into a major retail location for help."

The store, which debuted this week across the street from the new Apple store on University Avenue, will be open seven days a week to provide walk-in access to lawyers, who will give initial advice on personal and business topics. A 15-minute appointment with a lawyer will cost $45. Subsequent appointments can then be set up with LegalForce-affiliated specialists.

"The sweaty palms come from the first visit to a lawyer," he said. "If you're sick, you go to urgent care. If you need tax help, you go see a tax professional. There's no easy way to walk in and see a lawyer."

Despite downtown Palo Alto's high lease rates (BookFlip's space costs $50,000 a month), Abhyanker said he thinks being within walking distance of dozens of Palo Alto's startups will be worth the investment. He hopes representatives from startups will come into the store to secure a patent, protect a patent or get legal help with some other business-related issue.

There will be different fees for people who want an application filled out entirely by a lawyer, with a lawyer's help or merely reviewed by a lawyer.

Abhyanker said large bookstores and electronics stores are finding it difficult to survive in the electronics age. People go to them, find out what they want, and go home and buy online. The result, he said, is the loss of the "Mainstreet bookstore," like Borders Books and Music in Palo Alto, which closed in September 2011.

"Consumers lack the sanctuary that bookstores offer," he said. "People miss them; they miss going in, getting knowledge and relaxing. We want to change perception of lawyers in the U.S. by making law accessible in a comfortable retail area, while vitalizing bookstores without losing the sanctuary feel."

The three-story building will also include a seminar room, which Abhyanker hopes will help build trust with the community. The store will offer free classes on topics ranging from how to write a patent application to how to deal with a death in the family. Also, the space will be available for community groups.

LegalForce is opening BookFlip with no venture-capital funding and has already invested more than $2 million of its own money into the design and creation of the store, Abhyanker said. The company's 2012 revenue after built-in government fees was slightly more than $7 million.

"Depending on other people's money is very stressful," he said. "Whether we take funding (later) or not, it has to be aligned with our goals."

LegalForce was formerly known as Trademarkia, a Mountain View trademark law firm that has filed more than 23,000 patents since 2009 with the help of its trademark search engine, which he said attracts more than 1.8 million unique page views a month.

If BookFlip itself doesn't seem ambitious enough, Abhyanker hopes to eventually get into publishing, selling LegalForce-branded legal self-help books and ebooks that allow users online access to lawyers to help.

Editorial Assistant Eric Van Susteren can be emailed at evansusteren@paweekly.com.


Posted by Sherry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

Brilliant concept!
Best wishes for your success Raj.

Posted by M.O., a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 7, 2013 at 11:35 am

Just a comment about the interchangeability of the words "patent" and "trademark". These sentences should be edited:
"He hopes representatives from startups will walk into the store for help to secure a TRADEMARK, protect a patent or get legal help with some other business-related issue."
"Legalforce was formerly known as Trademarkia, a trademark law firm that has filed more than 23,000 TRADEMARKS since 2009 with the help of its trademark search engine, which he said attracts more than 1.8 million unique page views a month."

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2013 at 11:38 am

Legal advice and books I get, but tablets? Why?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm

More useless retail for the average Palo Alto family.

Posted by Chrisc, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Fabulous idea!! I will be watching for a price list. It would've super to walk in and pay by the hour to get advice or have a lawyer check a form.

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I think this is a terrific idea! But, wow, $50K a month for the space, maybe I'd look for something less expensive to start out-

Good Luck to you!

Posted by Typical Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I agree, this is a great idea, except for the tablet part, which also baffles me.

Will there be an on-site (and reasonably-priced) notary public? I would definitely find that useful. Ideally, the person would take appointments, but also serve walk-in customers upon availability.

Congratulations. Cool concept!

Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm

PA Online - thanks for including the $50,000 per month rent figure, that is shocking. To really make this useful information, it would be nice to add to the story the square footage of the space.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2013 at 1:19 am

> Raj Abhyanker wants to change the public's perception of lawyers

Nice ... I'd like to change my perception of lawyers ... I'd like to see them hanging upside down by their toenails! ;-) Just kidding, I loved Perry Mason.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2013 at 1:26 am

On the serious side, the legal profession is nothing to average people.
I have gone to talk to a lawyer two important times in my life for estate management stuff. The advice was basically, I should get a lawyer, and the person in my family should get a lawyer and then both lawyers will just battle it out taking all the hours they need. Even the most basic of things, like a POA, Will, Prenup ... something that like they talk about starting at $5000 just for a basic boilerplate kind of thing.

Not all lawyers are this useless to average people ... just about 80-90% of them. Shakespeare was right. If you think about it, when the law is inaccessible to most people, or only accessible in a serious emergency, what kind of democracy can be possibly have?

Raj Abhyanker might have a good idea here.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2013 at 1:31 am

With the high rent being mentioned here ... I wonder if one reads between the lines if this is really a kind of marketing gimmick, like 1-800-DENTIST, where local lawyers pay a fee to be put on a referral list - - - $600,000 a year for rent is a lot of money. I imagine lawyers are hurting these days and trying to drum up business any way they can.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2013 at 1:34 am

> There's no easy way to walk in and see a lawyer

Not sure that's true ... the local bar association already has a lawyer referral service that gets you a half hour with a lawyer in whatever area you want to investigate for $45 ... at least they did a while back, I think it's still there. It's easy to talk ... but if you get someone who wants to take you for a ride more than they want to solve your problem, it will be very expensive.

Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2013 at 9:02 am

RE: Retail storefront - Lawyers

Raj, is your business just geared for the business community?
I have seen the need for affordable legal advice for neighbor to neighbor issues as well. Landlord-Tenant, pedestrian injuries, neighbor disputes, other personal issues, etc. Will your business model include the average joe?

Thank you.

Posted by Raj Abhyanker, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Dear Palo Alto residents and friends,

I am Raj Abhyanker, the CEO of the new LegalForce BookFlip store in downtown Palo Alto (323 University). We are in a historic Birge Clark building, restored to the original facade from the 1920s. We opened our doors on Thursday February 7 (yesterday).

We want to create better democracy through accessible legal services. Attorneys at the LegalForce BookFlip Palo Alto store are available on a walk in basis, online, and face to face.

We are specialists in business, patent, and trademark law. Because of our innovations on the web through Trademarkia, we are the world's largest trademark filing law firm. However, we can provide initial advice on a wide range of general legal topics including landlord tenant, estate planning, and dispute resolution related issues. If we do not know the answer to something, we have a network of specialized attorneys (immigration, family law, estate planning etc.) that share our brand and can meet you at our space. We take walk in appointments between the hours of 12 noon and 9 pm, 7 days a week.

Beyond access to legal services, we are a bookstore and community space. A complete list of books that we have available for sale in the store can be viewed here :

Web Link

In addition to books, we sell Google Nexus tablets. We enable side by side comparison between the latest Apple, Samsung, Google, Acer, and Amazon tablets. This way, you can make your own decision as to which tablet might work best for you. The reason we sell tablets is because they provide a medium on which digital books can be published and read. In addition, selling tablets enable us to contribute valuable sales tax dollars to the local community.

I want to invite residents to hold classes in our community room to enrich the public through education and the arts. We will provide our space for free to events that will benefit the community.

We will listen to your comments and will incorporate them into the store. We are training two staff members to become notaries within 6 weeks.

Our space is 8000+ square feet over three levels, one of which is the retail level. To learn more about our LegalForce BookFlip store in Palo Alto, please see view my interview on Bloomberg yesterday :

Web Link

You can also follow us through our Twitter feed:

Web Link

and on our Facebook page : Web Link

Please feel free to email me with any questions, feedback, or suggestions at the email below. Alternatively, please feel free to continue posting your questions and thoughts here. I will do my best to answer them within one business day.


Raj Abhyanker
CEO of LegalForce, Inc.

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Okay so now I'm thinking the "tablets" they're selling are Tylenol?

Posted by Palo alto resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm

If you can afford 50 k per month, why don't you just provide free legal advise to people that really need it.....east palo alto. Do you really think palo alto folks can't afford legal advise or don't know enough people to go their houses.

I like your idea but also provide some kind of "good human service" to people who can't afford it.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 11:51 am

Why can't someone open up a business without a bunch of "no skin in the game" detractors throwing in their negative vibes from the bleachers?

How about this: Good luck and I hope your business thrives!

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I read somewhere that Moses got legal advise on tablets.

Ditto to Crescent Park Dad, I too wish the business well and will check it out next time I'm downtown. Never know when I might need someone to look over some legal forms.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Save $5 when you register by Monday, July 24

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here