Toronto startups launch online directories to match lawyers with clients

Two Toronto startups say they hope to revolutionize the way Canadians search for legal services, launching online portals that look like dating services, but are meant to connect clients with lawyers, not with lawyers. lovers.

While most large law firms have fancy websites, many smaller firms and solo lawyers – the ones that help most people write wills, buy their first home, or get a divorce – still have attendances. awkward lines. Some don’t have a website at all. However, as with everything else these days, when many people start looking for a lawyer, they increasingly search online.

It is this gap that Kabuk Law and LawyerLinx are trying to fill. The two companies are among the very first projects to be hosted in Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone, an “incubator” for legal technology startups led by Chris Bentley, the former Attorney General of Ontario.

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Websites are still in their infancy and their founders recognize that they will not realize their full potential until a critical mass of lawyers sign up.

The entrepreneurs behind the sites say their goal is to improve existing web directories for lawyers, such as Lawyer Locate, the dominant site in Canada. In the United States, FindLaw, owned by Thomson Reuters – whose parent company is majority owner of The Globe and Mail – provides a searchable directory of lawyers. US-based Avvo allows users to ask legal questions, get legal help over the phone, and search a directory of US attorneys.

LawyerLinx promises an algorithm to match clients – who fill out a quick questionnaire about their needs – with a selection of suitable lawyers. It also asks users if they want to pay the lawyer a fixed fee or an hourly rate and how much they expect to spend.

The site was founded by Edyta Kowalewska, a Toronto business and real estate lawyer, a partner at Morrison Brown Sosnovitch LLP, a small Toronto firm. She says she founded the site to demystify the process of finding a lawyer. LawyerLinx and Kabuk also offer general advice for consumers looking for lawyers and information sessions on different types of law.

“I really wanted to create a place that would educate and empower consumers,” Ms. Kowalewska said. “… The legal profession, I would say, is not known to be very consumer-oriented.

Kabuk was first started as a website to help people find healthcare professionals, such as chiropractors, nutritionists, and physiotherapists. But last week, the entrepreneurs behind this project launched a new version to meet the needs of lawyers. To be on the list, lawyers will have to pay a fee of $ 100 per month.

In addition to listing the lawyers in your city who specialize in the legal service you are looking for, the site allows clients to make appointments. Kabuk also plans to post recommendations from verified clients, although finicky lawyers can opt out of the service.

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Asha Soares, co-founder of Kabuk, says using her site will be much better than just searching for a lawyer using Google: “When you go to Google search results, you get people who paid or who spent time and money on SEO [search engine optimization] and Google Ads, not necessarily the people who best meet your needs. “

Samantha Collier, a West Vancouver-based consultant who advises attorneys and law firms on social media marketing, says new sites are facing a tough climb as Lawyer Locate already has thousands of lawyers registered. But they could be successful if they come up with something unique or innovative, she said, adding that lawyers are also finding that paying clients can be found through Facebook and Twitter.

“I would say it’s competitive for them,” Ms. Collier said. “They have to find a niche.”

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