The legal profession has witnessed the rise of new players that are disruptive of existing patterns of law practice.
First came LegalZoom, AVVO, TotalAttorneys, Rocketlawyer, MyLawyer (our company), and Law Pivot, disrupters that are having an impact on the way legal services are identified and delivered to the broad middle class.
Now comes AttorneyFee.com that holds promise of making legal fees more transparent.
For many years I have been critical of the fact that lawyers charge widely differing legal fees for the same work. In a study I was involved at the University of Maryland Law school some years ago, we discovered that for simple family law actions, such as a no-fault divorce, lawyers would charge any where from $500.00 to $3,000.00 for essentially the same work. This variation in legal fees for the same work tasks is another cause of the distrust that the average consumer has of the legal profession.
AttorneyFee.com is a welcome development for law firms that are already experimenting with fixed fee legal services delivered online. Law firms that are using online delivery technology will in fact have a competitive advantage over law firms that use higher cost productive methods. Sites like AttorneyFee.com expand the reach of these firms by giving them another channel to advertise their fee information to consumers.
I registered my Maryland virtual law firm at AttorneyFee.com yesterday. I found the interface to be clean and simple and the registration process easy.
My only criticism was that there was no field to display a law firm's web address -- only an email address and a telephone number. This means that an interested prospect will have to contact the law firm to get more information by phone or email, without the opportunity of easily clicking through to the law firm's web site.
In my case, the page describing the pricing of my services does not provide enough information to the consumer about the scope of my services. There is no place to indicate that we offer "limited legal services" for pro se parties exclusively. For a new company that prides itself on transparency, this feature is less than transparent.
Moreover, when my firm comes up, a form also pops up that enables the prospect to ask for a free consultation. Except in our case, we don't provide free consultations. Since we sell a legal advice service by the question for a modest flat fee, offering a "free consultation" is not consistent with our business model.
When I asked Robert Komaiko, one of the co-founders of AttorneyFee about these issues, he said they have other features planned for the site but they felt it was important to launch the site, get feedback, learn, and revise. As a believer in the lean startup method of starting a company, which is now all the rage in Silicon Valley, I agreed with Robert that it was important to get the concept launched and to work out the kinks later. There is certainly enough benefits and features already built into the site to see if this concept gets any traction. Better to launch the service , get feedback, and revise, as opposed to waiting for a year, adding every feature imaginable, and then discovering that consumers have no interest in the service.
AttorneyFee using a proprietary search technology,has already listed the prices that over 20,000 law firms are charging on their web sites. The company plans to have over 70,000 law firm sites indexed within a relatively short period of time. This information alone will provide a useful consumer resource for comparing fees charged by law firms for similar tasks.
Some lawyers are bound to be critical of this web service as it is another indication of the commercialization of the legal profession but as Beibei Que, the other co-founder of AttorneyFee, and its CEO, told me:
We have all known that this moment was coming for a long time. The profession can no longer limp along with one foot in the for-profit economy and another in a quasi-clergy role. If we wish to reap the benefits of the for-profit economy, we must be prepared to comport ourselves like private market actors, and this means not retreating from conversations about price or concealing them behind closed doors.
AttorneyFee.com is a welcome addition to the family of new disrupters shaking the legal profession to its core.