Legal marketplaces are proliferating based, I suppose, on a few ideas about the practice of law and the needs of solo and small-firm lawyers:

  1. Solo and small-firm lawyers frequently need help with “overflow” tasks
  2. They don’t already know where to go for help with those tasks.
  3. Or if they do know where to go for help, they aren’t willing to pay the asking rates.

I already wrote about DocketHero, an app-based marketplace that will be launching shortly. In that review, I mentioned Legalkin, a similar service. Legalkin is focused on connecting lawyers who need help with lawyers, paralegals, and law students who can provide that help. On Legalkin, you post a job, and contractors can bid on it. Based on their bids, you can award the contract. Or you can just browse contractors and offer the job directly. Either way, the only cost is when you agree to hire someone. The fee is escrowed until the job is done.

In a comment to Bob Ambrogi’s post on Legalkin, Lisa Solomon pointed out that she has not received a single inquiry from marketplaces that predated Legalkin. She says:

In my view, freelance legal marketplace sites will primarily serve, on one hand, providers who are new to the business and those who offer freelance services (such as court coverage) on an irregular basis and, on the other hand, lawyers who are looking to hire those types of providers. Lawyers who want to hire experienced providers with established reputations in their fields can easily find those providers by asking their colleagues for recommendations and/or searching on Google.

I asked Legalkin’s founder, Jason Steinberger, whether Lisa is right about marketplaces not working for lawyers like her. He responded by saying that:

Lisa is not the type of freelancer most small and solo attorneys will hire, looking to pay between $10-$60 an hour for a few hours of research. Lisa … is more experienced than that. For those jobs, small research assigments, court appearances, page-in-line deposition digests, etc…. younger attorneys, students and paralegals are more attractive to the cost concerned hiring attorney; especially the 7 percent of law school graduates forced to hang a shingle will. However, lets not ignore that its a changing world. Large law firms are crumbling, high end small boutique partnerships are on the rise and Lisa would appeal to them and thier high net worth clients.

He’s right, I bet Lisa is not willing to work for $10–60/hour. Neither am I, even as a contractor. Those rates get you inexperienced (or desperate) lawyers or paralegals, law students, and not much else.

Maybe the legal marketplace’s time has come. A growing number of startups sure seem to think so.

I’m not so sure. Most of the solos and small firms I know respond to “overflow” work by working more hours, because they unwilling or unable to lose the revenue. Some do use law students or other contractors to pick up extra work, but I doubt many of them feel they are paying too much, especially in this market.

In order for Legalkin to succeed, that cannot be true. There needs to be a critical mass of lawyers who have just enough overflow work that they cannot do it themselves, but not so much that it is worth just hiring a law student or young lawyer for 10 hours a week or so.

Featured image: “Marketing concept: computer keyboard with Calculator icon and word Marketplace” from Shutterstock.