In today's weakened economy, lawyers across the country are looking for new ways to drum up business—and Web-based tools are expanding in response. Alongside established online legal directories, new Internet-based businesses that provide assistance with marketing and referrals offer lawyers even more ways to land new work.
In September, LegalTube.com—a video-sharing site that hosts interviews with lawyers—launched from Birmingham, Alabama. In November, Seattle-based Avvo began offering a subscription service, Avvo Pro, which helps lawyers tailor their profiles at the Avvo.com rating site to attract clients.
In February, a Thomson Reuters division released Monitor Suite Opportunity Finder, an online tool for researching and identifying client leads. Two more new sites offer legal professionals a way to find and give work referrals among colleagues.
"There are plenty of social networks for lawyers," says Isis Bous, an attorney in Washington, D.C., and CEO of Lawyer Referral Exchange,
which launched LawRex.com in September. "We're not trying to compete with those; lawyers can't sign up with our site and start chatting."
Instead, LawRex provides a forum where lawyers can swap referrals that they can't use for others they can.
"When people need a lawyer, most don't start by looking in the Yellow Pages or searching online," says Bous. "They usually start by calling the lawyer they know, assuming that he or she can help or will know someone who can. But often if someone calls me and says 'I need an attorney,' all I can do is say 'Good luck, but I'm sorry I can't help you.' With LawRex, I can help them find the right lawyer in the right jurisdiction."
LawRex also lets users rate the quality of a lawyer's referrals, thus encouraging users to post only the most solid leads.
"When I get a notice from LawRex, I feel more confident that it's a real case than if I get an email from a random person," says Gabriel A. Assaad, a Washington, D.C., solo who specializes in personal injury and legal malpractice. By contrast, with an online lead generator, "you can get 20 [leads] and only one pans out."
Also last year, Law Clerk Connection of Folsom launched a site that operates much like the freelance job-posting networks found in other professions: Lawyers needing assistance post "want ads" seeking help on specific projects; paralegals, law students, and even attorneys upload résumés, references, and/or writing samples, and then bid on the work.
"This service is beneficial to sole practitioners and smaller law firms to scale their workforce to suit their needs," says CEO Laurel Edgeworth. Law Clerk Connection can help them "add a new assistant on a case-by-case basis without the expectation of a long-term engagement." Members can also leave feedback on freelancers they've hired through the site, taking some of the guesswork out of the hiring process for others.
"There are lots of networking sites where lawyers can talk to lawyers," says Edgeworth. Her site, on the other hand, offers "a way to connect to students and freelancers, and that focuses on small law firms' abilities and needs. That's something different."