By Kevin O'Keefe

Can legal matchmaking sites help legal services consumers?

Legal Matchmaking sites

Online dating and matchmaking sites have been the rage for a decade or more. Being married for 35 years I can’t say I have had the opportunity to use one – though I understand married folks now use Ashley Madison, the infidelity-focused matchmaking site whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Recent funding of UpCounsel, additional funding of Avvo, and having run across Priori Legal got me thinking of where we’re at with Internet legal matchmaking.

Legal matchmaking sites (lawyer to consumers/businesses) have been around for almost as long as the Internet. When I first started raising money for Prairielaw.com, later acquired by LexisNexis, venture capitalists asked me if there was a way to get a part of the legal fee, possibly through a matchmaking service. The market for legal services is markedly greater than the market for legal marketing.

LegalMatch, with a checkered past, has been around 16 years with consumers and business people sharing their legal situation with lawyers then responding with a proposal.

By 2000, Martindale-Hubbell hooked up with an online market service site backed by the Barksdale Group, a venture capital company which had funded Netscape and was then backing a who’s who of Internet companies. Martindale used the service to provide a matchmaking service on lawyers.com which it then offered to hundreds of thousands of lawyers.

Though the technology may be better today and more people, including lawyers, are comfortable with using the Internet for every aspect of their lives, the concept of matching lawyers and those who need a lawyer through the Internet is the same.

UpCounsel may have something with matching lawyers to corporations, I don’t know. I see Priori written of favorably in articles, though repeated to calls to me asking me to sign up made me wonder.

Avvo, who I know better, is not a true matchmaker, but has an intriguing offering with Avvo Advisor. Intriguing in that legal services are made more accessible to the average American and lawyers willing to take a quick call get paid.

Under Avvo Advisor, accessible in 15 states by browser or an app, a consumer selects one of 6 or 7 areas of the law, uploads a relevant document, enters their zip code and pays $39. A “four star lawyer” will call within 15 minutes. Maybe a Uber for the law, but I like it.

I have never been a big fan of true legal matchmaking sites. Maybe I am old school, but I see the hiring of someone for professional services to be more than Internet matchmaking.

I’d like to think a person or company ought to hire a lawyer in an informed fashion. Give me as much information about a lawyer as possible and I’ll then decide who I like and trust.

Hopefully the lawyer looking to get hired is doing as much as they can to make me informed.

  • Are they sharing their insight and commentary?
  • If I am looking in a niche, as I should, can I see how they stay up to speed in the niche?
  • Can I see how they interact with peers?
  • How about how reporters, bloggers, and thought leaders cite them and share what they have to say?
  • Do I like their style, the way they talk and their sense of humor?

If the lawyer is not doing those things to help people make an informed choice of hiring them, perhaps that’s a good enough reason not to hire the lawyer.

My guess is lawyer matchmaking sites will grow. As they do I hope they include a component enabling a consumer of legal services to evaluate lawyers in an informed fashion — much as I outlined above.

Otherwise the hiring decision will be based on less than what’s needed to truly evaluate a professional.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jed

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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