Forget Tesco law, now is the time for eBay law
How do clients find solicitors?
It’s probably not something you’ve given much thought to, and less likely something you’ve had first-hand experience of.
But it can be quite a trauma. Kid Harwood, solicitor director at mixed practice area law firm Wildings, knows that all too well:
Clients often tell me they had to email or phone around solicitors in their local area, explaining their predicament over and over again.
The profession — often viewed as elite and intimidating to those not in it — can, in Harwood’s words, feel “unapproachable and confusing”.
It can also be difficult for would-be clients to repeat the ins and outs of their legal dispute, especially if it’s emotionally charged. I’m sure no one would envy a domestic violence victim who has to tell their story to ten or 15 solicitors before they find one who has enough time to help.
As Harwood told us:
The process needed streamlining, and it needed something better for both client and solicitor.
And it looks like that ‘something better’ may well have come.
Harwood has pioneered a brand new website called LawBid, something us here at Legal Cheek are terming ‘eBay for lawyers’.
So what exactly is it? LawBid, in a nutshell, is a forum for legal disputees to enter details of their conflict, keeping their personal details anonymous (something they find “reassuring”), and then leaving it to the solicitors to find them.
Solicitors register — for free — to the website, and their details can then be married up with prospective clients within the area. They are able to pitch to the would-be client with their quote price. Clients can accept this offer, at which stage their personal details become visible to the solicitor, or reject it if a higher offer comes along.
The project is over a year — and a lot of hard work — in the making, and officially launched last Monday.
Just one week in and 43 solicitors have already signed up. Manchester-based lawyer Harwood is in the process of racking up publicity for LawBid so clients get on board. Radio adverts are due to run in the next couple of weeks, and he’s also been thinking about TV adverts.
University of Central Lancashire graduate Harwood is confident he’s invented a model that’s a win-win for all people involved.
The choice and convenience available to clients is a big incentive for them to use the site, and while it’s the lawyers doing the leg-work, this isn’t anything they’re not already doing.
Solicitors, Harwood told me, pay a lot of money for Google and Facebook ads to “get themselves out there”; LawBid is just a cheaper way of doing this. Solicitors get their first case for free, and then pay £295 for the year for a standard package on the site, or £495 for a premium package. LawBid takes no money from the client, even if they win their case, so is totally solicitor-funded.
It’s very early days, but Harwood — also a CEO of investment banking company Incubox — is feeling very ambitious about the future of LawBid.
He predicts that, by the end of the year, there will be 20,000 clients using the website, and he hopes to expand the service — currently only available to people living in England, Wales and Scotland — to clients and solicitors over in Ireland and Dubai.
This certainly isn’t the first website-based development the profession has experienced in the past few years. Legal Cheek has reported on new online initiatives such as ClaimItOnline, CrowdJustice, and CaseHub, all of which have been developed by people with backgrounds in law.
With this in mind, individual start-ups like LawBid really need to shout to have their voice heard — but Harwood still thinks he’s doing the right thing. He told us:
The legal profession is traditional, and change within the law sometimes isn’t well received. Solicitors need to keep an open mind and embrace technological development within the legal sector.
Where will these legal profession-focused tech advances end? A final word from Harwood:
Where does technology end? These developments shouldn’t end. A majority of law firms are so far behind in terms of technological advances they must adapt their strategies in order to survive — and IT can be an effective enabler.