The founder of new legal comparison and referral website The Law Superstore says there is no other site providing this level of “legal aggregation” as the site moves towards its formal launch in March 2016.
The Law Superstore, which has received a ‘seven figure’ sum from private equity providers JZ International and Souter Investments, aims to connect individuals and small-to-medium enterprises with law firms, enabling them to search under 12 different categories and 140 legal practice areas.
Likening the site to well-known insurance comparator Compare the Market, chief executive and founder Matthew Briggs told Legal IT Insider that potential clients can identify their legal needs in layman’s terms and they will be presented with a number of options that meet their search criteria.
“If you put in ‘been sacked’ it will present to you, for example, unfair dismissal and redundancy – it is underpinned by an intuitive dictionary tagged to layperson’s terms,” said Briggs, who previously founded alternative business structure Brilliant Law (now Genus Law) and has held senior roles at Aviva, RAC, Capita and Minster Law.
“If you see a word you don’t understand, such as disbursement, it will be in a different colour and if you hover over it, it will explain what that word means,” he adds.
Once a client has identified their broad legal need, the system will take them through some rapid fire questions to narrow it down, such as, in the case of a property transaction, asking the value of the property and if it is freehold or leasehold. Briggs said: “It’s just like being asked the size of your car’s engine, who will be driving and whether you will require a courtesy car. The end point is the identified product and behind the scenes thousands of algorithms are working out what’s right for you.”
The client is then presented with a comparison website on which relevant law firms and their brands appear. Clients are able to search by those firms that are nearest or up to 30 different criteria. Briggs said: “If you want a female solicitor who is open late on a Thursday and where there is free parking, it re-orders the search according to what is important.”
Clients are able to search by price, including narrowing work down to fixed fee, capped, or hourly rate.
Law firms do not pay to register and will instead be charged a fee for work won. The fees are either flat rate or percentage-based depending on the type and complexity of the work. News of the impending launch in the Law Society Gazette provoked one reader to comment: “I am not a progression hater but I thought referral fees were banned so for a law firm to be charged ‘a flat fee for every piece of work passed on’ would surely fall foul of those regulations.”
Briggs said: “Obviously the referral fee ban only applies to personal injury work. For the time being PI firms will just be charged an advertising fee.” The Law Superstore is currently seeking further clarification on the position with regard to PI firms.
The site, which has been developed by internal developers in partnership with digital development company Blinkio, will ultimately provide a review function as clients are asked to review the responsiveness and quality of the service at the beginning and end of the matter. The Law Superstore’s chief technology officer Aaron Knox is also managing director at Blinkio.
JZ International and Souter Investments in 2013 bought a majority stake in Winn Solicitors, where managing director and founder Jeff Winn is an adviser and investor in The Law Superstore.
So far The Law Superstore is in talks with around 200 law firms and Briggs said: “We are looking for full service provincial law firms that are tech-savvy and hopefully offering fixed price because they get what we’re doing and are transparent – we are all about transparency.”
Comment: In case you were wondering, Compare the Market’s alter ego site Compare the Meerkat’s Head of IT is called Sergei Meerkat (pictured). His other title is Head of My Tea. His responsibilities include “servermabob, computermabob, laptopmabob, internet pipings and make cup of tea.” Ed