A Florida law firm yesterday launched a website, LegalYou.com, that is in part a portal for self-represented litigants and in part a storefront for selling the law firm’s unbundled services. The site aims to both educate and assist people who are representing themselves while also providing them access to professional services on an as-needed basis – and to do it all in a way that is accessible, affordable and fun.
The site was created by the law firm Ice Legal, which has offices in Royal Palm Beach and Miami. Here is how it describes itself:
LegalYou is a revolutionary, online legal portal that is going to make the law accessible, affordable and, dare we say, fun for absolutely anyone. Whatever your legal problem, big or small, we offer FREE documents, FREE multi-media informational materials, FREE case tracking tools, and FREE advice from our very own attorneys. LegalYou is revolutionizing access-to-justice and capable of empowering EVERY CITIZEN with effective legal independence.
The site offers a variety of free services and resources, largely focused on teaching users about the law and facilitating their ability to handle their own matters. Users must first register in order to get access to any of the site’s features. Included with the free registration is an on-demand, 15-minute consultation with one of the firm’s attorneys.
The firm also sells additional services, both through monthly memberships, which provide additional access to lawyers and legal documents, and on as as-needed basis, which allows purchase of various unbundled services, such as having an attorney draft a document or argue in court.
The firm views this as a project designed to enhance access to justice by those unable to afford full legal representation. Although many of its resources initially focus on Florida and the site’s legal services are available only for Florida and federal legal matters, the firm plans to expand the site’s content and legal services to all states.
“LegalYou leverages technology so we can expand all services and representation to modest means litigants,” said Ariane Ice, who helps run Ice Legal along with her husband, lawyer Thomas Ice. “Of course, our investment in developing the site and content is driven in part by the knowledge that in order to be profitable delivering ‘low bono’ services, you must be able to do it in volume. Tom and our attorneys have many years of experience with a volume model. Creating a client-facing, online portal should be a game changer.”
In 2010, the Ice firm came to national attention for its role in exposing mortgage companies’ use of fraudulent paperwork in foreclosure cases.
Once a user registers, the user has free access to educational materials, certain legal documents and discussion forums. Among the educational resources:
- A library of articles, animations, infographics and other materials that teach basic legal topics.
- Access to appellate briefs and deposition transcripts to serve as examples.
- A game room with games that teach about courthouses, evidentiary objections and jury selection.
- Videos that provide overviews of various legal topics.
Free membership also allows users to create non-litigation documents through a guided interview. Available documents include a simple will, various bills of sale, and a residential lease agreement.
Free membership also includes the creation of one litigation document. Additional litigation documents must be purchased through one of the options discussed below.
In addition to the free services, the site allows users to purchase additional services. These can be either by a monthly membership or on a one-off basis.
Monthly memberships range in price from $20 to $100. These memberships allow users to obtain legal advice beyond the first 15 minutes of free advice at prices of either $1 or $2 a minute, depending on the plan. Higher-tier plans also include unlimited litigation documents, access to e-filing services, and other advanced options.
Users can also purchase unbundled services on an as-needed basis. Among the services offered are:
- Prepare for settlement negotiations.
- Prepare for a deposition.
- Prepare for a hearing or trial.
- Document drafting and review.
- Appearances in court, at depositions or at mediations.
- Appellate briefs or argument.
Besides unbundled legal services, the site also offers what it calls legal concierge services. These include:
- Arrange an interpreter.
- Arrange a mediator.
- Arrange a court reporter.
- Arrange for skip tracing or background checks.
- Arrange courier services.
- Arrange a process server.
An addition concierge service is the “S-Court,” in which a legal professional accompanies an unrepresented person to court to provide guidance but not direct representation.
Other services are in the works, including even transportation to the courthouse.
The Bottom Line
From a marketing perspective, the site is creative and unique. It draws users in with the promise of free legal resources and tools and then delivers on that promise in an engaging and helpful way.
Is there more to it than marketing? Does it facilitate access to justice, as the firm behind it says? Clearly it does, both by providing access to legal resources and by providing access to direct legal services offered in unbundled chunks at affordable prices. Users who pay $20 a month can get legal services for $2 a minute and users who pay $60 a month can get services for $1 a minute.
The site just launched yesterday. It will be interesting to follow it to see how it does and whether it can successfully expand beyond Florida.