Startup corner: Lawtendr – The eBay for lawyers?

In her second report today, associate editor Caroline Hill looks at the new website Lawtendr, which launched earlier this week. This is the latest venture hoping to become the new eBay for lawyers across the US, Canada, Australia and UK.
Free to post jobs and free to bid for them, where a bid is accepted Lawtendr charges clients a 10% fee on top of the lawyer’s legal fee. While the likes of New York City-based platform Lawdingo or LawTrades charge the lawyers for setting them up with clients, Lawtendr founder Jonathan Burshtein explains: “Clients get a fixed fee and legal fees on the site will tend to be lower. The bidding process also means the client gets the most competitive, best price.”
The idea is certainly not new but Lawtendr is intended to be more of a free market concept than sites such as Lawdingo or LawTrades, which direct clients to the right lawyer “within minutes”, minus the bidding process. Another service, UpCounsel, operates a form of reverse auction model but operates in the B2B space and after pairing up lawyers and clients also provides services such as client management tools and invoicing. If anything, Lawtendr is most reminiscent of the memorably-named US-founded legal auction site Shpoonkle, which tried and failed to become the eBay for lawyers at the time of its launch in 2011,when it meet a deluge of criticism in the US for creating ‘a race to the bottom’.
The liberalisation of the legal services market since 2011, not least the introduction of the Legal Services Act in the UK, has certainly softened attitudes. Furthermore, addressing quality concerns levied at early movers in the online legal services space, Lawtendr lawyers will have to input the year they were admitted as lawyers to enable clients to get a sense of their experience. When lawyers bid, they will describe to the client their background and experience as it applies to the job. Burshtein, a partner in Toronto-based law firm Davidzon Burshtein LLP, says: “Long term, the ratings the clients post about lawyers should offer additional assistance.”
There is also a 10-day client cooling off period, in which the lawyer is also able to run checks to ensure they are not conflicted from acting.
Burshtein, a former Canadian government tax and pensions lawyer says: “I had to find a lawyer for my mother and even for me the whole process took me weeks. One person gave me an hourly rate, another person a fixed price. The whole process can be quite intimidating and a lawyer can tell the client anything and they won’t know anything different. If I want to buy a television, in 10-15 minutes I can shop on quality and price across different stores but it’s not so easy when it comes to lawyers and Lawtendr will make it easy to find a lawyer.”
The market may just about be ready. Whether the systems and processes have that enough of that eBay stardust remains to be seen. Lawtendr was founded by Jonathan Burshtein, a founding partner of Davidzon Burshtein LLP, and Blue Basil Studios Ltd, a Toronto-based web development company.