Sunday, November 4, 2012

New website matches potential clients with attorneys from the comfort of home

The service, called Lawdingo, goes one better than LegalZoom and RocketLawyer by offering clients a free consultation with an attorney licensed in their jurisdiction. If each side is happy, the attorney can be retained online without the client every having to leave home. As the website says "Skip the hassle!  Legal advice is at your fingertips." 

Lawdingo's founder says he hopes the service will not only be a great convenience to clients looking to find an attorney without having to make, and wait for, an office appointment, but that it will also put a dent in the number of unemployed lawyers by giving them another means to find business and lower overhead by practicing via a virtual law office.  From Lawdingo's press release:

How do you find a good lawyer to handle a divorce, start-up issues or a criminal defense case, anywhere? It's a hard thing to do because the market is so fragmented, both geographically and by domain expertise.

A new site and service, Lawdingo.com, makes matches between attorneys and people who need their help. It aims to do so more quickly and affordably than earlier alternatives on- and offline.

The founder and chief executive of Lawdingo Inc., Nikhil Nirmel, told VentureWire he raised $100,000 in seed funding from veteran engineers and entrepreneurs, with a commitment to double that capital if he hits certain milestones.

Now out of private beta, Lawdingo.com "lets people talk to a lawyer online," the CEO explained. Attorneys who want to use the site to connect with prospective clients are heavily vetted before they're allowed to join. Once accepted, they must be available to talk "now or within the week by video chat, phone or email," with potential clients, Mr. Nirmel said.

Users access qualified lawyers within their state via Lawdingo online, so they don't have to wait for an open appointment and drive across town to meet an attorney one month later. Instead, they get a free consultation in the virtual, and can decide to proceed and pay online, or move into some other long-term agreement, offline, with pricing established upfront.

The legal advice that users get via Lawdingo.com is tailored, specific and actionable, unlike content shared on general, social media sites or even law-firm blogs. It's not do-it-yourself or software-guided legal help, like that provided by LegalZoom or RocketLawyer, two other tech ventures trying to transform the market.

The average free online consultation given to Lawdingo users lasts for 20 minutes, said Mr. Nirmel. Lawyers set their own terms but must offer free consultations up to one hour in duration.

Attorneys don't have to pay a commission or lead-generation fees to Lawdingo for new business should they lock in a long-term retainer. Attorneys also get 100% of the fees users pay for consultation by the hour on the Lawdingo platform.

The start-up makes its revenue by charging attorneys a monthly fee for the software as a service. That pricing, in the company's pilot phase, was $95 per month per user. The monthly subscription pales in comparison to the time and money most attorneys, or their firms, spend to be seen in search engines, and directories from Yelp.com, more generally, to specialized sites like Lawyers.com.

So far, investors backing Lawdingo include a seed fund in Cambridge, Mass., called Stevens Ventures, a former Yelp Inc . engineer named Adam Derewecki, and Rohan Srinivasan, who is best known for his work in Google Inc.'s finance team. Other angels who preferred to remain unnamed include an engineer who has been with Google since 2004.

The founder of Stevens Ventures, Nathaniel Stevens-- also the founder of local search business Yodle Inc. --explained that he backed Lawdingo Inc. because: "Interacting with lawyers is still an inconvenient and costly pain, especially when you're in the retail or consumer law market. The Web is under-exploited as a channel, here."

Mr. Stevens also endorsed Mr. Nirmel's abilities to build products tailored for local and niche professional markets, while managing and scaling up his team.

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that only 55% of newly minted attorneys--those who graduated from law school in 2011--attained full-time, long-term jobs in the U.S. Lawdingo hopes to improve those numbers, too.

Mr. Nirmel said the site and service should help major law firms and sole practitioners all to become more profitable, by giving them visibility with and access to customers in markets beyond their brick-and-mortar offices.

Continue reading the press release here.

Hat tip to Above the Law.

(jbl).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2012/11/new-website-matches-potential-clients-with-attorneys-from-the-comfort-of-home.html

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