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Crowdsourcing legal advice for corporations

LawPivot made the news this past week by securing $600,000 in funding from a group of investors that includes Google Ventures. This funding is in addition to $400,000 the company received previously from investors. An invitation-only site, LawPivot allows companies to submit a legal question to multiple attorneys for their responses. After entering the subject of the question and “other characteristics that are most important to you” (LawPivot: How It Works), LawPivot’s search engine recommends attorneys the company can select to answer the question. The process is confidential. According to the ABA Journal, a Pillsbury Winthrop attorney signed three new clients by participating in LawPivot. Although it is free to use the site now, eventually LawPivot plans on charging for the service.

Is this a good strategy for attorneys to look for new business? Would you feel comfortable engaging in a casual attorney-client relationship like this?

What about using crowdsourcing in different manner, to develop a legal treatise/practice guide using a site similar to Wikipedia? For an excellent discussion of this topic, see Staffan Malmgren’s post Crowdsourcing Legal Commentary on VoxPopulii, the blog of the Cornell Legal Information Institute. Check out this Mashable post for examples of other crowdsourcing sites.

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  1. January 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I think LawPivot is a good strategy for attorneys because they can attract prospective clients and network more efficiently in the economic downturn. The Fast Company story ( http://www.fastcompany.com/1704181/could-lawpivot-mark-the-beginning-of-disruption-for-the-legal-field ), explains that the 80 attorneys involved so far work at the nation’s top 100 firms. Therefore, I don’t think it would be a huge gain for attorneys in smaller practices, at least not in this stage of LawPivot’s development. I would feel comfortable engaging in this type of attorney-client relationship in the future. There is the obvious benefit of possibly finding new clients. As mentioned in the VentureBeat article (http://venturebeat.com/2011/01/19/google-ventures-lawpivot-funding/), it could function as a more effective networking resource than the more traditional methods, such as speaking at a conference, especially in this age of social media. It does, however, raise some questions for me about malpractice liability and ethics. The Gigam piece (http://gigaom.com/2011/01/19/law-pivot-continues-its-mission-to-crowdsource-the-law/ ) also brought up some conflict of interest considerations, although it doesn’t go into much detail.

    The benefit may be more apparent for companies using LawPivot than it is for attorneys. In particular, smaller companies who don’t have in-house attorneys, or if they do, their attorneys might not have expertise in every area of the company’s operation. Overall, I think this is a great idea and a good resource for attorneys and businesses. LawPivot provides answers from 3 different attorneys

  2. January 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    (I was cut off above), allowing companies to hear the second and third opinions they might not explore through other methods.

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