For many people, getting reliable legal advice can be a very difficult, stressful and costly experience. Instead of turning to qualified lawyers, people often look to the internet for guidance, while some don’t bother looking for help at all.
A Melbourne-based startup wants to fix this problem by changing how people access legal advice online.
LawAdvisor is aiming to “democratise” legal services in Australia through a new online platform that will connect everyday people with a verified legal practitioner for free. It’s taking a double-edged approach, with the platform also serving as a social network of sorts for lawyers to communicate with each other.
On the website, which launched today, users can submit a legal query and receive advice from multiple relevant lawyers. If a lawyer’s proposal is approved, the lawyer and client can then move to LawAdvisor’s cloud-based practice management system for further consultation.
It’s that management system and its lawyer profiles that differentiate it from competitor and fellow Australian startup LawPath.
Founder Brennan Ong combined his twin passions of technology and law to create LawAdvisor. A simple question led him to the concept: “How do we encourage people to approach lawyers when they have a legal problem?”
Ong had previously helped develop the Victorian Supreme Court’s cloud-based management system, and saw a demand for a similar product for legal services in general.
He wants LawAdvisor to be a way for people to know their legal rights from the outset, and receive accurate and helpful advice.
“It allows people to find out what their legal rights are,” he says.
“People ignore them because they don’t know if they have a legal right. They can use the platform to engage with specialist lawyers.”
The platform will also be a useful resource for startups to access cost-effective business legal advice, Ong says.
“What we’re trying to solve is the fundamental first issue: how do we get people to understand their legal rights from the onset?” Ong says.
“This provides them with greater impetus to protect their legal rights and they can do all that through LawAdvisor.”
Ong says the statistics show that many people don’t want to, or can’t, get proper legal advice at the moment. According to a 2012 study by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, over 8.5 million people experience at least one legal problem per year, but less than one-fifth actually see a lawyer. Another fifth choose to seek advice from the internet instead.
“People aren’t taking legal problems to lawyers because they find it too costly, and too scary,” Ong says. “When we encounter a problem, we go to Google. There’s not quality control there.”
After developing the platform, Ong turned to some high profile lawyers for funding. LawAdvisor has raised $360,000 in seed funding, and Ong says he will look to open a Series A round in the next six months.