A new online service that allows potential clients to ask solicitors a question for free – and get a response within an hour – is set to launch to the profession shortly.
The website, Right Solicitor, already ranks at the top of Google behind only the Law Society for the words ‘solicitor’ and ‘solicitors’.
It is part of Ask An Expert, a venture capital-backed business that launched last November and offers 19 other similar services across a range of professions and services, from accountants to plumbers to IVF consultants.
Chief executive Paul Careless told Legal Futures that Right Solicitor, though only launched a few months ago, was already the most popular site of the 20, delivering 6,000 of the 35,000 questions currently received a month, and rising 10% a week.
He said the company is in talks with media groups to offer the various services through other sites as well. The site is also to offer a directory of panel firms.
Until now questions have been filtered through the panel of another referral company, but Mr Careless said he was bringing Right Solicitor in line with the rest of the sites by building his own panel.
Law firms pay a flat £250 a month to be on the panel – although the price is set to go up after the 1 September launch – with no further fees based on actual referrals. They buy a postcode and questions from consumers in that area will be directed to each of the firms that have that postcode in turn. Mr Careless said he is limiting the number of firms in each postcode to ensure they get a decent throughput of cases.
If a firm does not respond within 50 minutes, or decides to reject the question, it is passed to the next one on the list and the consumer sent a holding e-mail. The 60-minute guarantee does not apply out of hours. If no firm sees value in taking the case, the company’s two in-house solicitors will direct the user to other sources of help, such as Citizens Advice.
Mr Careless, who identified Contact Law and LawyerLocator as his site’s main competitors, acknowledged that some solicitors find the 60-minute challenge difficult, and that they still have to work to convert a question into a paying client. However, he said a crucial filtering mechanism is that users are asked, before submitting a question, whether they would be prepared be pay for a lawyer if required to deal with their problem. Those who answer ‘no’ are sent to the in-house team to redirect elsewhere.
Users will also be asked to rate the firms they deal with, but at the moment that information will not be published.