Two Auckland lawyers have developed software to ensure companies' bookkeeping practices are above board.
Through their firm, Evolution Lawyers, Thomas Bloy and Tamina Cunningham-Adams saw how many businesses' company records were non-compliant and, in many cases, were breaking the law.
"There's a document called a share register, which every company has to have. The consequences of not having one can be quite severe, including a $10,000 fine," Bloy said.
"Yet I would bet many, if not most, companies in New Zealand don't actually have one or don't maintain it properly."
Through their company CataLex, the pair and two Dunedin-based developers came up with piece of software called Good Companies to address this problem.
The program processes shareholding and director changes, produces resolutions, gives reminders of statutory deadlines, and securely stores the share register and other key company records.
The software is primarily targeted at accountants because, Bloy said, it would enable them to make their records legally compliant while avoiding costly consultations with lawyers.
"What we're seeing is that a lot of software companies trying to market time-saving software to lawyers who actually charge [for] their time. That's a tough sell.
"We thought we'd have better luck trying to allow accountants to get a slice of the legal services pie."
CataLex charges $12 a year for Good Companies, compared with up to $650 an hour for a lawyer.
Cunningham-Adams said people weren't hiring lawyers because of this cost, so accountants were doing this work themselves; sometimes incorrectly.
"As lawyers, we understood what was required but accountants, because their speciality is accounting and tax, knew they had to do something but didn't know how to do it. So you've got this massive educational disconnect," she said.
"The whole idea is to remove the dark art that the lawyer has, put it all down here with the people who are best placed to serve the business community of New Zealand, and get people compliant."
She said Kiwi accounting success story Xero had forged the path that CataLex hoped to follow.
"They're an informer as to what the accounting market's doing, but also just the world-wide market generally and they've shown the appetite for software to do things that have traditionally been done by people with a lot of education behind them."
CataLex has been working to integrate its software with the Companies Office so changes made on Good Company can be directly notified to the Companies Register. This will include filing annual returns.
CataLex has three other free pieces of software: Law Browser, which enables easier searching of legislation; Working Days, which calculates legal deadlines; and ConCat, which combines PDF documents.
Bloy said they wanted to take their products offshore as soon as possible and already had registered trademarks in Australia and the United Kingdom.