In the latest in our series on lawtech start-ups, Dan Bindman profiles Legista, a website looking to bring artificial intelligence to the world of connecting lawyers and potential clients.
A law student has become the latest entrepreneur to try and crack the problem of how to use online technology to improve the experience of consumers needing to contact lawyers to solve their legal problems at a reasonable cost.
Legista is a platform that will use artificially intelligent software to understand their matter and locate the right lawyer to deal with it. After the introduction is made, the platform will charge a percentage of the eventual fee.
The placeholder website ahead of its soft-launch shortly says: “Just as the dinosaurs were eventually replaced by more nimble creatures, Big Law will not be ruling the Earth for much longer.”
Aleksander Binder, Legista’s founder, who has just completed a two-year law degree in Manchester, said it was “a digital platform where we intend to facilitate the connection with legal professionals, not just necessarily solicitors, essentially to make life easier for people to access legal services”.
He said the idea had come about in response to his “own experience personally and the experience of other people – friends – who have struggled to have that certainty, that accessibility, transparency” when instructing solicitors.
He said it followed a close reading of the Competition and Markets Authority’s final report on legal services at the end of last year, which called for greater transparency for consumers.
He had considered a legal services comparison site, but abandoned the idea earlier this year. He had worked on Legista alongside his studies.
The start-up was backed by an investor and would seek further investment after it went live, Mr Binder said. The platform was currently going through bug testing and was set for a soft launch “hopefully in September”.
He went on: “We will be looking to work with independent legal service providers, whether freelance consultants or practitioners, small and mid-market firms…
“The transactions will take place through the website. What we want to do is create a network of high-quality, regulated professionals…
“It won’t be a free-for-all. If you want to deliver your services through this platform this is the standard you have to meet.
“Beyond that, you create your own brand, you provide the services, [and] you navigate through the platform with the client.”
Mr Binder said clients would enter their problem “then the platform will essentially understand – we use natural language processing – what those issues are and direct them to appropriate legal service providers”.
Rather than insist on a fixed-fee quote, Legista would simply require transparency, he said: “It won’t be a case of ‘this is my legal issue’; ‘okay I’ll do it for £5,000’. It’s a case of ‘here’s what I charge, this is my hourly rate, this is my day rate, I expect this to take in the region of five days, 10 days, 15 days’. So you can scope roughly at the outset what it is going to cost you.”
Asked how this differed from similar sites, Mr Binder, who is 32, said: “We are the platform that introduces consumers of legal services to providers of legal services.
“The platform is built in such a way that the technology facilitates those transactions, facilitates those communications, facilitates and automates those processes that solicitors and legal professionals need to use in providing those services…
“What we are offering is actually something that says ‘here is a way that legal service providers and consumers of legal services can identify each other, can connect, can communicate, can collaborate’, and we provide a service that streamlines the entire process to the benefit of both sides – both parties – rather than being solely an efficiency tool for the legal service provider or a comparison model just for the consumer.
“We want to make the entire process easier and more efficient for the legal market.”
He would not be drawn on the number of firms expected to pitch for a matter, saying only it would depend on how many providers signed up to the platform: “The more the merrier because we want to offer consumers as much choice as possible. But we will be benchmarking the quality and standard of these providers, so it may well be that a number of them don’t meet the criteria.”