There has probably been no worse development for lawyers than internet legal directories. While they allow people to find lawyers, they provide no useful means of differentiating between lawyers. The problems have been described here in detail over the years, when there was a rush of new “legal space” start-ups trying to milk a bit of the legal budget out of the middle by connecting some random lawyer, willing to pay a monthly fee, or willing to split their fee, to pretend they were a good lawyer.
Every lawyer on the internet claims to be tough, experienced and caring. The clients of some lawyers might dispute that characterization, but when the basis for choosing a lawyer is whatever crap they write online, it’s hard to tell in advance.
Naturally, that means there should be a new push for doing the same old failed thing, and Bob Ambrogi is on top of it.
What do millennials look for when shopping for a lawyer? They want to know if you’ll meet with them in Starbucks. They want to know if you accept payment via Venmo or Bitcoin. They want to know a fun or quirky fact about you.
That, at least, is the premise of Modern Attorney, a new attorney directory that aims to match millennial clients with lawyers who fit their lifestyles. The site encourages attorneys to create profiles that show their personalities and in which they are transparent about their services and fees.
Are they trying to say that millennials are vapid and shallow? Pretty much, yeah. They’re banking on it.
“Six months ago, we at NextChapter started talking about how we would look for an attorney,” Sickmeyer said. “All of us agreed we aren’t going to go find an attorney in the ways people might have done so in the past. We want to find lawyers who work the way we live, who will meet us in a coffee shop or talk with us over video chat.”
In the old days, people wanted to find lawyers who would win their case. Maybe win at a reasonable cost. Maybe just win. But this is a brave new world where it’s far more important to the young that lawyers “work the way we live,” meaning what exactly?
Lawyers’ profiles on Modern Attorney have sections that tell potential clients the different ways they will communicate — such as by email, text or remotely. They tell whether the lawyer meets by video conference, in coffee shops, or by traveling to the client.
Profiles indicate the ways in which a lawyer is tech savvy, showing when a lawyer has a secure client portal, uses “modern technology,” and communicates by texting. Profiles show average fees per hour or per matter, and the payment methods the lawyer accepts.
I might point out that the fee is relative to the lawyer’s ability, as $100 per hour to lose isn’t really that good a deal, while an experienced lawyer can do in one hour what would take an inexperienced lawyer ten hours. But then, experienced lawyers use their offices to meet clients rather than Starbucks, Ugh, amirite?
Lawyers are encouraged to offer “fun facts” about themselves. One says he plays bass in a wedding band. Another says she bakes over 200-dozen Christmas cookies every year. Profiles have sliders for lawyers to indicate whether they are cat or dog people, prefer mountains or cities, and lean more towards books or sports.
Oh fun facts? Here’s one: if it’s possible, I’ll beat your case even if you’re a white cis-normative man and your accuser is an overweight trans woman of color with a peg leg. Is that fun enough for you? As for whether I’m a “dog or cat” person, I’m a cross-examination person. How does that work for you?
Naturally, I wondered who would be the first to hook up with this new scheme, because what attorney doesn’t want to promote his wares to legal “consumers” who have no money to pay them? So I searched for “criminal defense” within 50 miles of New York City, eager in anticipation to see what fun facts I would learn.
It seems the only fun fact available was that there were “no results.” Which, ironically, is the right answer for anyone who is looking for a lawyer based on whether they “work the way we live.” But, as Ambrogi optimistically notes, it takes time to gain traction.
The nascent directory is still light on lawyer listings, so searches often come up nil. But that is to be expected with any new directory, until it has time to gain traction.
In order to beef up its listings, Modern Attorney is offering lawyers the ability to sign up for free through the end of the year. For those who take advantage of this offer, their listings will remain free forever, Sickmeyer said. Starting Jan. 1, the cost of a listing will be $25 a month plus a $150 initiation fee.
If you get in now, not only will you be the only lawyer in the city, but you can get it free “forever.” Of course, forever might not mean what you think it does. Right, Shpoonkle? It would be cheaper, and more likely effective, to just buy some pinstriped hotpants and walk the boulevard.