A comparison website claiming to be the first UK service dedicated to matching businesses to lawyers has been launched, and includes customer ratings at the end of every engagement.
LawyerFair is the brainchild of entrepreneur Andrew Weaver, and John Stapleton, the former managing partner of south east regional law firm Thomas Eggar.
The service, which is free to users, advertises itself as a “lead generation tool for firms” and says it matches “the legal needs of businesses with a pre-screened and market reviewed panel of lawyers”.
Businesses post their legal requirements to the site and within 24 hours are provided with up to three proposals from panel lawyers. Clients can choose a lawyer based on their experience, price, and the ratings left by previous clients.
The site, which claims a “national reach”, stresses that client ratings are a vital part of the sourcing process: “We encourage each customer to provide a rating and review of their lawyer, thereby providing the market with a rich source of independent assessment.”
Part of the rationale given for setting up a dedicated SME-focused business was research produced earlier in the year by the Legal Servicers Board suggesting widespread unhappiness with legal services provision and therefore a significant ‘unmet need’ among small businesses.
Speaking to Legal Futures, Mr Weaver said LawyerFair charged between 5% and 8% of the value of the case, but he stressed it was “very much a ‘no win, no fee’ type arrangement with the firms”.
He said the idea for the site had arisen “from personal experience” and the feeling that “the SME comparison market wasn’t being suitably addressed, or at the least the quality of the lead – and perhaps even the quality of the lawyers on various panels – wasn’t quite right”.
The founders were not interested in serving the consumer market, he added: “SMEs are not satisfied about the way the legal profession operates on their behalf. We wanted to be dedicated to that market only, to focus on it, and to make sure that lawyers we have are dedicated to that.”
The site would be “ramped up” in 2014 and the current panel was composed of lawyers already known to the founders or who were specialists in certain areas, he said. It was a “relatively limited panel to iron out one or two wrinkles with what we are trying to achieve”.
Mr Stapleton was managing partner of Thomas Eggar from 1984 to 1994 and during that time the firm grew from a turnover of £5m to £27m. Mr Weaver said his own experience was “in entrepreneurship, particularly in the SME market”. They are joined by IT-specialist businessmen Jason Noble and Dan Somers.
Mr Weaver said the company was confident it was the only comparison site dedicated to businesses. “From our pre-launch research… we did not find any site dedicated to SME/commercial work only…
“A number of comparison sites have emerged that handle consumer leads and/or a mixture of consumer and commercial. Our research with lawyers further indicated that some sites have tried but struggled with the SME market and have reverted or remained focused on the consumer leads.”