A competitive bidding website that matches lawyers and clients saw a threefold increase in business last year, as both flooded online during the lockdowns, it has emerged.
Kid Harwood, a personal injury specialist solicitor and founder of LawBid, a site that enables users to post details of the legal help they seek and solicitors to respond with price quotations, reported a “huge increase in traffic” in 2020.
“When the Covid lockdowns forced solicitors’ offices to close, large numbers of legal professionals surged online to seek alternative ways of finding and serving new clients. This was matched by a vast increase in clients searching for legal help online across all legal specialisms, particularly in family and employment,” he said.
The platform had responded to changing demand from solicitor subscribers by offering a diversified range of products, including social media management, website design and consultancy on compliance with new regulations on displaying cost details.
He continued: “The pandemic merely pressed fast forward on an already inevitable trend in digitisation. I have been talking about legal tech since 2016, yet I have seen more progress in the last 12-18 months than the last five years put together.
“[Covid] pushed even the most reluctant of solicitors online and the profession quickly adapted and saw the advantages of platforms like LawBid for client acquisition”
Mr Harwood announced last week that he is leaving Birmingham and Manchester firm Wildings, where has been a director and partner for 15 years, to work full-time for LawBid.
The lawyer-matching venture launched in 2016, aiming to recruit over 15,000 clients. Mr Harwood was tight-lipped about whether this target was met, but said it had shifted the “balance of power” between professionals and customers “in a positive sense, enhancing the user experience and benefiting both parties”.
The competitive bidding model is not new, having been popular in the US for more than a decade. In 2011 the Wall Street Journal cause a stir with a story about what it called ‘reverse auctions’ to negotiate legal services, headlined ‘Pricing tactic spooks lawyers’.
The idea of making lawyers compete on price, among other metrics, is now firmly established among commercial law firms and law firm panels.
Lawyers in the US and UK have accused competitive bidding models of fuelling a ‘race towards the bottom’, but research has shown clients tend not to select a solicitor solely on price.
LawBid operates two main pricing plans: a basic one aimed at sole practitioners that costs £495 a year for up to seven cases per membership and a premium plan costing £695 a year for up to 12 cases. A further plan, for a price to be agreed, offers unlimited cases.