When it comes to hunting down a lawyer, many of us either ask for a referral from someone we know or ring a number from a late night commercial. San Francisco-based LegalReach is a startup looking to introduce a new way for lawyers to connect with new clients and each other. Think Facebook for lawyers.
CEO and founder, Avlok Kohli, launched the company in January 2013 after speaking with his brother-in-law, a lawyer, who offered a glimpse into the profession and how technology could help improve it. A University of Waterloo graduate, Kohli built on his experience with Doximity, a network exclusively for doctors, to develop a place for lawyers to find each other and new clients.
Not known for being early adopters or even big users of new technology, lawyers mainly use their own public websites or connections from their days at a big law firm to propel their careers. LegalReach is trying something different.
Without the aid of proprietary lists, Kohli developed a Google crawler to access public information, such as email and law schools, to create a database, which contains approximately 95 percent of lawyers around the world. Similar to Facebook, LegalReach sends emails to its database asking if they would like to join. Once a lawyer accepts and creates a profile, the platform sends an email to former classmates asking them to connect. According to Kohli, for every lawyer that signs up, they then invite around 100 of their classmates (usually their entire class).
Free to register, LegalReach boasts more than 10,000 active members and more than a million “dark” profiles ready to be activated by the corresponding attorney. Although focused on the US, where 1.1 million of the world’s 1.4 million lawyers live, there are many international users signing up—from Canada to the UK.
“At first we were concerned with the fact that lawyers are a conservative bunch with the lowest adoption rates of technology, but right out the gate we had no issues with attorneys signing up—it was pretty high,” said Avlok Kohli, CEO and founder of LegalReach. “We found out pretty quickly that the key to attracting attorneys is to communicate and really show them how LegalReach can impact their business right away.”
On the consumer side, LegalReach acts as a matchmaker, allowing potential clients to submit/post a legal request to find the right attorney for them. The LegalReach platform vets interested lawyers automatically through a questionnaire, asking specific questions like “how many cases have you had like this before?” and “what is your specialty?” From there, 200 options can be further narrowed down to 20 or even 10 based on location and pricing – giving the client the best value and best fit for their case.
Looking ahead, the startup is currently working on securing Series A funding, which they hope to close by the middle of the year. Kohli will add this to the $900,000 in seed funding he has already secured from IronPort founder Scott Banister and AngelList founder Naval Ravikant.
LegalReach’s team of five is also hard at work building a referral platform between attorneys with a commission-based incentive. Currently in the middle of testing, the referral system soft-launched in December 2013 and is expected to officially launch in February or March of this year.