In the legal-startups category of “here today, gone tomorrow,” lawyer-bidding sites rank right at the top. Just last year, in a single post here, I wrote about the demise of one such site, Shpoonkle, which had launched in 2011 to much fanfare, and the debut of another such site, Lawtendr. A year later, Lawtendr too has disappeared. One other site I mentioned in that post, BidsFromLawyers.com, appears also to have shut down.

Against this backdrop comes another lawyer-bidding site, Jurbid, which launched Monday. What makes it different from its predecessors? Jurbid positions itself as a “public benefit corporation” whose goal is to tackle the access-to-justice gap in the United States. Founder Aydin Bonabi explains in a press release:

We started Jurbid not to exploit a market opportunity but rather to fix a social issue. Too many Americans live under the specter of losing money, their homes, and even their children, all because they lack awareness of their rights and access to legal representation. Jurbid will relentlessly raise awareness about certain issues affecting Americans and will ensure everyone has access to a lawyer, is represented, and is effectively heard in a Court of Law.

Can’t argue with that purpose. But functionally, Jurbid appears to operate in much the same manner as other lawyer-bidding sites. The consumer posts a case. Lawyers submit proposals that include their price. The consumer hires the lawyer with the most appealing proposal.

Currently, Jurbid operates in only Florida and New York. It is looking to expand to Illinois and Michigan in the near future and ultimately nationwide, Bonabi told me.

Consumers pay nothing to use the site. When they accept a lawyer’s proposal, they pay the lawyer’s full fee to Jurbid. (Jurbid uses the payment processing system Braintree.) Jurbid deducts a 2 percent transaction fee and the Braintree processing fee and immediately sends the balance to the lawyer.

Additionally, Jurbid plans to charge lawyers a nominal fee to submit a proposal in response to a consumer request. Currently, it is waiving this submission fee.

Jurbid says that it has an extensive review process before admitting lawyers to its network. Attorneys must be admitted to a bar and in good standing. Jurbid says it reserves the right to reject attorneys based on a number of factors. It also periodically reviews attorneys after they become members, Jurbid says.

Founder Bonabi is a 2010 graduate of Stetson University College of Law. Before founding Jurbid, Bonabi was chief strategy officer at EssenMED House Calls and regulatory counsel at FXCM.

There are lawyer-bidding sites that have not gone out of business. ExpertBids is a bidding site for hiring lawyers and accountants. Another, UpCounsel, caters to businesses. Still another, JammedUp, is for people who get, well, jammed up.

Will Jurbid withstand the test of time? We’ll check back next year.

  • One wonders why these case bidding services are so temporary. Do any take contingency agreements into account?

    • Jurbid

      We do offer contingency cases.

  • Mike C

    the business model just doesn’t work until we stop prohibiting fee sharing. without being able to take a real commission (5%-20%) there isn’t enough money to make the dollars and cents of this kind of site work

    • Lance Corvette

      Champtery and maintenance have long been prohibited because it gives a non-lawyer, with no ethical boundaries and no Bar association to answer to, a financial interest in the outcome of the representation.

      People would drum up lawsuits from nothing or collude in creating conflicts, or make unreasonable promises of results which a licensed, ethical attorney would not do.

  • Jurbid

    Thank you for the feedback. Bill Gurley, a marketplace guru follows the same logic. Marketplaces work best when a commission can be charged on the transaction. Unfortunately, due to bar rules, we are prohibited from charging such a transaction fee. Lawyers, however, spend markerjng dollars without even knowing the client or knowing whether the case is of interest. In order to avoid splitting fees, we adopted the “lead approach.” If you like to engage a client you pay a lead fee. In this case, the attorney has an idea of the case and the underlying facts. This is a value proposition unmatched in the market to date.

    Unless, the bar changes the rules, this is the only way to monetize the process. While rare, other companies follow the same approach.

    • Bob Ambrogi

      One reader asked on Twitter about how you vet lawyers who want to participate in your site, particularly in light of the fact that you are a small company and background checks can take time. Can you amplify on how you vet lawyers?

      • Jurbid

        A distinction needs to be made between background checks and ensuring the attorney is licensed to practice in a particular state, is in good standing and has no major past grievances cases filed against them. Both Florida and New York Bars offer this information. It is important to note, however, that Jurbid has an additional vetting process on top of the Bars. Technology enables us to streamline this process tremendously.