In a tough economy with daily BigLaw lays-off announcements, it’s nice to see a firm innovate to help clients and prospects. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR) announced today a new online service, a term sheet generator. 

The WSGR Term Sheet Generator,

“will generate a venture financing term sheet based on your responses to an online questionnaire. It also has an informational component, with basic tutorials and annotations on financing terms. This term sheet generator is a modified version of a tool that we use internally, which comprises one part of a suite of document automation tools that we use to generate start-up and venture financing-related documents.”

Few US law firms have released interactive legal services in recent years. The WSGR online system illustrates how some investment and innovation can serve clients and extend a firm’s reach. WSGR is already the go-to firm for Silicon Valley start-ups and this service will further cement its leadership position.

Running through the term sheet generator, I can see it’s a sophisticated tool with extensive “logical branching.” That is, as you select options, the screen often changes dynamically to ask for additional information. I’m not expert in this practice area but it feels like a “heavy duty power tool”.

I suspect entrepreneurs will find it useful. I’ve invested in start-ups led by friends. My most successful entrepreneur friend is not a lawyer but has a deep understanding of the legal framework of start-ups. He’s complained bitterly about legal fees and BigLaw associates who know less about deal docs than he does. I think anyone like him will love the WSGR term sheet generator.

I doubt it eliminates the need for a lawyer. What it does, however, is allow an experienced entrepreneur to get started, to do the leg work. Then, when it comes time to working with a lawyer, the focus can be on those aspects of the deal or docs that really need advice or hand-crafting.

I wonder if other large law firms will invest some lawyer time to create equally useful and innovative online services. Lay-offs may be necessary but do not win new business and gain market share or share-of-wallet. Innovation, however, can.