With over 1 million practicing lawyers nationwide, the legal services industry in the United States generates over $200 billion in revenue. Given the number of practicing legal professionals out there, how does one find the right lawyer when there are so many to choose from?
In the past, individuals who sought out legal representation generally relied upon personal referrals or the yellow pages to assist them in finding a lawyer, but those methods often proved to be time consuming, uncertain and only allowed consumers limited perspective on the qualifications and experience about a prospective attorney or law firm they were trusting to handle their legal issue. Today, as the Internet has become a part of our everyday lives, consumers are increasingly turning to online attorney-client matching services for assistance.
Attorney-client matching services prove to be beneficial for both consumers and lawyers. By providing a secure and confidential forum where your legal issues can be presented directly for review by qualified, prescreened attorney members in their area based on the type of case they submit, attorney-client matching services eliminate much of the uncertainty and time out of finding an attorney interested in your case. Simply, lawyers come to you and you decide which attorney is best fits your needs. Several nationwide attorney-client matching services such as LegalFish, LegalMatch and Casepost interview each participating lawyer, checks the lawyers' bar record for any disciplinary history, and reviews their legal background and, often, their references before deciding if the lawyer could benefit from the service.
How it works
Attorney-client matching services allow users to simply submit their legal service needs on the site by indicating the legal field, geographic area and the specific legal issue, and the "case" is then filtered to participating law firms or lawyers that that match those criteria. Lawyers are contacted about potential cases via e-mail. LegalFish also provides the option for attorneys to receive a text message to their mobile device such as their cell phone or personal digital assistant. The attorney-client matching process allows attorneys to reply quickly if they are interested in offering assistance.
The Federal Trade Commission released "Comments on a Request for Ethics Opinion Regarding Online Attorney Matching Programs" on May 26, 2006 that endorsed the consumer usage of attorney-client matching services. The FTC noted that attorney-client matching services make the search for a lawyer less expensive and more efficient for the consumer.
When, for instance, consumers chooses to use a directory such as the yellow pages, they need to search through several attorneys before deciding on the right one, which could be time consuming. The FTC states, "By lowering consumers' costs of obtaining information about price and quality of legal services, online legal matching services are likely to allow consumers who use them to pay lower prices and/or obtain higher quality legal services than they would have had they used their next best alternative means for identifying a legal service provider." Attorney-client matching services allow consumers to eliminate the clutter to find qualified attorneys free of charge.
Research shows that the $100 million-plus attorney-client matching service industry is becoming highly regarded by consumers and lawyers alike. "As more and more law firms (and lawyers) recognize the need to reach people where and when they are looking online, attorney-client matching services will offer users more choice and ease when looking for qualified legal representation from the comfort and privacy of their home or office," said Joshua Fuhrmark, LegalFish managing director.
According to Reuters, approximately 4 million people go online to seek legal services per month and that number is projected to rise to over 9 million people per month in 2007 and beyond. In the San Diego-North County Metropolitan area alone, last year there were over 200,000 unique visits to attorney-client matching services from individuals looking for a better way to find the right lawyer.
Pope is a marketing communications specialist for LegalFish LLC.