You need an attorney, but are spooked by the notion that you may have to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for something relatively simple, such as a will. That's the dilemma that has led to Shpoonkle, a site where lawyers bid for your business.
WalletPop talked to the owner of Shpoonkle, Robert Grant Niznik and he explained how the site works.
A client would log onto the site, sign up for free activation (there is no charge for the client to use the service), then write up his legal needs. This is then posted for the member attorneys to view (no client can see any other client's postings). The client will receive competitive bids from lawyers on the site.From the attorney side, the site works like this: attorneys sign up, listing their areas of expertise and states in which they can practice. Shpoonkle then checks them out, calling the state bar associations to make sure they are in good standing.
Once the attorney clears this background check, they are free to browse the client postings, bidding on them as they choose. Each attorney can see what others have bid for a job, which helps drive down the cost. There is also a function allowing attorneys and clients to mail questions back and forth to clarify the case and the attorney's pertinent experience.
Why would attorneys participate in competitive bidding? Niznik explained that each year law schools in the U.S. graduate 44,000 new attorneys, 8,000 to 9,000 of whom find no work, while thousands more are underemployed. Attorneys, he said, already spend thousands of dollars pursuing clients, so Shpoonkle might be a vehicle to cut down on those marketing expenses.
How is this concept received in the legal community? Niznik said that the idea has been well accepted by his fellow law students and those attorneys with less than 10 years of experience. If there is a backlash, he said, it is among attorneys with 30 years of experience who enjoy hourly rates in the four figures.
And what, we asked, about the rather silly name? Niznik explained that the term is a family joke, but he likes it as the label for his start-up. It is less off-putting that something like Lawyerauction.com.
What are the prospects for the site? It has been live for only a couple of weeks, but Niznik said it has already enrolled 300 attorneys, 150 clients, and there are 50 cases already posted.
What is the downside? While the credentials of all lawyers on the site will have been vetted by Shpoonkle, that is no guarantee that the attorneys are the shrewdest in the deck, so a wise client will explore their background a bit more before automatically choosing the low bid.
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