Need a doctor? There’s definitely an app or two for that, and scores of websites too to search for a physician and healthcare provider. Now, the legal services industry is catching up with its counterparts in the medical field and other sectors and developing technology to help users find an attorney. And the trend is making it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs who can’t afford to keep a law firm on a retainer or have an in-house counsel to access lawyers for their special needs.
Among the first legal sites developed was online documentation site, LegalZoom.com, a website founded in 2001 where a layperson can access standard legal documents and prepare routine papers such as wills, living trusts and trademarks. According to website entrepreneur.com, a new mantle of legal startups are beginning to take shape and they’re coming in a garden variety. While entrepreneur.com calls the models as “disparate but flourishing,” it is allowing legal professionals to create sophisticated profiles that helping them build a strong referral network. There’s wirelawyer.com that allows lawyers to connect with colleagues and alumni networks and is designed for small to mid-sized firms. The site touts itself as “creating the biggest virtual law firm in the world.” PrioriLegal is another referral site (in beta testing) that helps entrepreneurs and business leaders connect with a network of lawyers who can best assist them with their legal needs – sort of acting as the middleman between small businesses and attorneys. Up Counsel, according to entrepreneur.com, enables lawyers to bid on matters through an online marketplace with traditional rating system. Then, there is Shake, highly customizable contractual agreements on your phone.
And there are more. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that over the summer, San Francisco’s LegalReach Inc., a social-networking site for law-school alumni, opened its 10,000-lawyer network to small businesses and consumers who want quotes on legal jobs. Attorneys whose bids find favor with clients pay $50 for the introduction. The Journal also reported that Atlanta-based IP Smartup connects startups with patent attorneys who charge discounted rates for intellectual-property advice.
Carolyn Elefant, a writer for the website Above the Law says the sites that are cropping up at “golden. With their clean modern look and easy navigation, these platforms give prospective small business clients a far better user experience than any bar referral or local chamber of commerce site I’ve ever seen. Plus, many of the lawyers registered for the sites so far boast stellar credentials.”