Image courtesy of WireLawyer
Tollin, based in New York, said that LinkedIn is the de facto social network for attorneys. But it's too generic, he continued, and it doesn't address legal industry challenges such as tracking referral payments, sharing contracts, and asking questions to legal professionals. WireLawyer addresses all of that, he asserted.
The idea emerged from Tollin's own legal career he had stints as an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, served as a general counsel, and ran his own small firm. Along the way Tollin discovered that lawyers are typically slow to adopt new technology and that consumer products tend not to fit the bill the Apple iPad being an exception to both rules, he declared. Tollin also found inspiration from Tim Stanley, an advisor to WireLawyer and founder and CEO of Justia.com, as well as founder and former CEO of Findlaw. Stanley showed Tollin a formula for applying modern technology to traditional attorney dilemmas, such as Justia's cost-free legal research and now, with WireLawyer, a better way to share legal content and resources. Stanley could not be reached for comment.
WireLawyer, which is currently in beta testing, is seeking investors. Tollin described how the service works: Lawyer-users acquire points by generating content on the site, such as answering a question or posting a contract template; points are used to buy WireLawyer resources, e.g., documents or answers to questions. Users who lack points can purchase them; they can also get paid in real dollars for attorney referrals. A premium feature on Tollin's roadmap is competitive intelligence, he added.
"Every lawyer needs a contract, every lawyer needs a motion," Tollin noted. Joining the service is free, however, "We take 10 percent of the referral transaction fees," he explained. Tollin said there have been 1,000 users so far. Justia, as well LexisNexis division Martindale-Hubbell, will endorse WireLawyer, he said.
Looking beyond the social networking component of WireLawyer, various existing online legal services are competitive to Tollin's goals. Lawyers can ask other lawyers questions in forums such as the International Legal Technology Association's Connected Community site, TechnoLawyer, and the litigation support Yahoo group. Consumer-facing services such as RocketLawyer and LegalZoom offer contracts and legal referrals.
Martindale CEO Phil Livingston said he's known Tollin for several years and is excited to see how WireLawyer evolves. "I think he's a really good technologist and he's got Silicon Valley kind of roots," Livingston said.
"I just wanted to support it [WireLawyer] and be close to it. He [Tollin] and I talk. We're sending him some traffic to see how it goes. There's no real commercial relationship right now," Livingston continued. "[Martindale sees] a lot of traffic where lawyers are talking to lawyers, but what he's trying to get them to do is share resources and be more efficient. It is a little bit competitive … I'd rather be close to it than just ignore it."