At one point or another, pretty much every small business needs legal help. But hiring the right law firm isn’t easy, and it can be expensive. But what if there were a platform enabling small businesses to find affordable, independent legal counsel? That’s what UpCounsel seeks to provide.
UpCounsel provides a marketplace of attorneys to help small businesses and startups find cost-effective legal help without hiring a full-service law firm. It works by matching customers with attorneys based on the type of legal help needed, as well as the specialties of the lawyers available.
For attorneys, the UpCounsel platform provides a new way for them to find clients, which can be a challenge for those with their own independent practices. Essentially, it enables independents to create their own virtual law firm in about five minutes, allowing them to offer different packaged deals and fixed-fee services and providing a client-management tool for scheduling meetings and projects. UpCounsel also processes all payments for services provided through the platform, so there’s no haggling over invoices or waiting for clients to pay their bills.
For clients, the platform provides a number of independent, solo, and part-time attorneys who charge much less than the typical full-service firm. According to co-founder and CEO Matt Faustman, the platform cuts down on a lot of overhead associated with typical law firms, which means the average hourly rate on UpCounsel is about half what most firms charge.
When a client posts a job on the platform, it seeks to match them with the best attorneys available based on the type of work, industry, and location. So far, UpCounsel has been used a lot by clients in the tech and real estate industries, and even among the legal community to help firms find part-time attorneys for big projects. It’s even seeing attorneys use the platform to team up and create their own ad hoc law firms for certain clients.
UpCounsel screens all attorneys that have signed up for proper certifications, malpractice insurance, and a minimum of two years experience. To date, they have about 150 California lawyers signed up for the platform since it launched in beta last September, but according to Faustman it plans to expand that to more than 1,000 attorneys over the next 12 months.
Faustman was a former startup lawyer himself, at Latham & Watkins in Silicon Valley and Boston. To build UpCounsel he teamed up with co-founder and CTO Mason Blake, who was the former lead engineer at JamBase, and COO Touraj Parang, who founded Jaxter and was former head of strategy at Webs.com before it sold to Vistaprint.