The number of online services seeking to make the law more efficient for both consumers and lawyers continues to grow. Berkeley-based Nolo.com, a pioneer of do-it-yourself legal services since the 1970s, also offers online legal documents and software, along with a "find-a-lawyer" directory for customers who need professional help. In 2011, Nolo was purchased by Internet Brands in El Segundo, which owns more than 200 consumer websites, including AttorneyLocate.com, Lawyers.com, and AllLaw.com.
A host of online companies-FindLaw, LegalMatch, Lawyer.com, and UpCounsel-are jockeying for Web traffic, revenue, and venture capital funding. Many want to grab a slice of the estimated $45 billion "latent" market for legal services, those low- to middle-income earners who have been priced out of the traditional legal market.
Gillian Hadfield, a professor of law and economics at the University of Southern California, has long advocated for bringing affordable legal representation to the underserved. She believes online legal services are an important tool for providing more access to justice.
"Online legal is absolutely necessary for increasing access because the Internet is how we interact with most markets these days," says Hadfield, who also serves on LegalZoom's legal advisory board but has no financial interest in the company. "We also need to allow a much broader array of providers besides lawyers to provide services. You don't need the full-scale JD and bar license to do some things."
Here is a sampling of companies offering legal services on the Web to consumers and attorneys. -T.M.
- Founded in 2007 by Mark Britton, former general counsel for Expedia. Investors:
Benchmark Capital, Coatue Management, Ignition Partners, and DAG Ventures.
Posts ratings and reviews for lawyers in every state. Offers a free legal Q&A service and advice on finding the right lawyer.
- Founded in 1995 by lawyers Stacy Stern and Tim Stanley. Owner:
Provides online legal information and "find a lawyer" services for consumers.
- Founded in 2003 by FindLaw co-founder Tim Stanley. Owners:
Tim Stanley and Stacy Stern.
Offers free case law, legal resources, and a "find a lawyer" feature. Premium service provides websites, blogging, and online marketing to law firms.
- Launched in 2009 by owners Gerry Gorman and Gary Millin, co-founders of Mail.com.
Offers help finding a lawyer, access to legal articles, and free legal advice from participating attorneys.
- Founded in 1999 by lawyer Dmitry Shubov. Investors/Owners:
Angel investors and American Lawyer Media.
Helps users find prescreened lawyers, and offers attorneys leads that match their legal specialty.
- Founded in 2001 by lawyers Edward R. Hartman, Brian S. Lee, Brian P. Y. Liu, and Robert Shapiro. Investors:
Permira, LegalZoom's management team, Institutional Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Polaris Venture Partners.
Offers customizable legal documents and a network of attorneys.
- Founded in 2013 by legal investigator Robert Townsend.
represented civil litigants with lawyers who offer unbundled legal services.
- Launched in 2007 by lawyer Charley Moore. Investors:
Charley Moore, August Capital, Google Ventures, Investor AB, and Industry Ventures.
Provides customizable legal forms that can be signed, stored, and shared electronically, along with access to an on-call network of attorneys.
- Founded in 2012 by entrepreneurs Matt Faustman and Mason Blake. Investors:
AngelPad, Collaborative Fund, Homebrew, Haroon Mokhtarzada, SV Angel, and others.
Helps businesses connect with lawyers through an online bidding service. Users post a request for specific legal work, and attorneys respond with quotes for fixed fees or hourly rates.