Two Jewish Canadian college buddies hope their new Internet site will make it easier for people to come up with an answer to the question, “Do you know a lawyer who does…?”
Shane Coblin, 36, a Vancouver-based commercial litigation lawyer, and Lawrence Tepperman, a Toronto-based entrepreneur who specializes in startup companies, are pushing forward with a new computer technology called Legal Linkup, a site that matches people with the right lawyers who fit their budget.
Coblin said he came up with the concept for Legal Linkup in 2010 after he spent years listening to his friends and clients complain about how difficult and time consuming it can be to find the right lawyer.
“I have clients and friends who have small businesses, who are always calling me up saying, ‘I need someone to do a will, I need someone to do patents and IT stuff for my company, some cross-border immigration stuff’ – stuff that I don’t do and my firm doesn’t do. And I didn’t know where to find them,” Coblin said.
“One of the complaints my friends had was: ‘What? I’m going to go to Google and call 15 people, interview them, sit down with them – it’s such a waste of time. Their time is just as valuable as my time.’”
Coblin added that they also expressed concerns about whether they could trust a new lawyer to do a good job and whether the lawyer they did find would fit in with their budget.
“The year before that, I’d seen these kinds of freelance marketplace sites like Guru.com… It seemed like really good lead generation software for people who don’t know where to look.”
“Lead generation” describes the process of generating consumer interest in a product or service.
Enter Tepperman, whom Coblin had maintained a friendship with since his University of Western Ontario days when the two were fraternity brothers in Sigma Alpha Mu, a Jewish fraternity.
“He’s a business guy and he kind of fills in the parts that I can’t do. I’m the technical guy that knows the law and technology and I know a good idea and concept and how to design it… Over the years, we’ve always talked about doing something together and this seemed like the perfect thing,” Coblin said.
He explained that Legal Linkup gives the power to the clients.
Clients post their legal issues – anonymously and for free – onto the site, and the member lawyers are able to view the postings. If a lawyer is interested, he or she will send the poster a quote.
For a fee, the lawyers – all of whom must have a bar membership number and be in good standing with the law society – create profiles that advertise their areas of expertise. There is also an option of upgrading a subscription to be featured on the homepage of the site.
“This streamlines the approach completely. They can go to one spot, confidentially post what they’re looking for. It will get sent to the lawyers that practise what they need and then those lawyers can review the listing, ask some questions and can send a proposal with their rate… The client would have four or five proposals they can choose from,” Coblin said.
He said that once clients settle on a lawyer, their information is sent only to that lawyer and they are free to negotiate and make other arrangements off the site.
“It’s almost like online dating sites. We try to match you with a lawyer that is going to fit your needs.”
He said what makes the concept of this site so appealing is its efficiency.
“When you get a client calling you, if he or she is not relevant to you, it ends up taking you 15, 20, 30 minutes for you to figure out that they are not right for you and you’ve wasted all that time,” Coblin said.
As a Legal Linkup subscriber, a lawyer will receive an e-mail each morning detailing the listings that were posted that are relevant to their practice.
“That will take you five minutes. You get rid of the inefficient use of time.”
Although Coblin said he has ambitions for Legal Linkup to grow into an international site, he said that so far the focus has been on attracting users in the Greater Toronto Area.
“We started pushing it in January in Toronto – just to make sure it works and fills the needs we want it to. We just wanted to see how well it would be received in one area and it’s been received really well.”
He said they get up to five new listings a day, and have about 50 lawyer subscriptions, but anticipates that once the word spreads, the interest will grow.
“This is the next step in lead generation for lawyers. This is where people will go to find a lawyer now.” For more information, visit www.legallinkup.com.