What do millennials look for when shopping for a lawyer? They want to know if you’ll meet with them in Starbucks. They want to know if you accept payment via Venmo or Bitcoin. They want to know a fun or quirky fact about you.
That, at least, is the premise of Modern Attorney, a new attorney directory that aims to match millennial clients with lawyers who fit their lifestyles. The site encourages attorneys to create profiles that show their personalities and in which they are transparent about their services and fees.
The directory was launched by the people behind bankruptcy site NextChapter, which was acquired in September by Fastcase. Janine Sickmeyer, NextChapter’s founder, told me that she originally created the directory to help funnel leads to the bankruptcy attorneys who use NextChapter, but that it proved so popular, she decided to open it to all practice areas.
“Six months ago, we at NextChapter started talking about how we would look for an attorney,” Sickmeyer said. “All of us agreed we aren’t going to go find an attorney in the ways people might have done so in the past. We want to find lawyers who work the way we live, who will meet us in a coffee shop or talk with us over video chat.”
Lawyers’ profiles on Modern Attorney have sections that tell potential clients the different ways they will communicate — such as by email, text or remotely. They tell whether the lawyer meets by video conference, in coffee shops, or by traveling to the client.
Profiles indicate the ways in which a lawyer is tech savvy, showing when a lawyer has a secure client portal, uses “modern technology,” and communicates by texting. Profiles show average fees per hour or per matter, and the payment methods the lawyer accepts.
Lawyers are encouraged to offer “fun facts” about themselves. One says he plays bass in a wedding band. Another says she bakes over 200-dozen Christmas cookies every year. Profiles have sliders for lawyers to indicate whether they are cat or dog people, prefer mountains or cities, and lean more towards books or sports.
Profiles do not have peer or user reviews.
“The benefit of this profile is to show your personality,” Sickmeyer said. “Millennial clients want to meet with an attorney who works the way they live.”
Clients Contact Attorneys Directly
Potential clients who come to the site search for lawyers by choosing a practice area and then a city or zip code. They then get a list of matching attorneys, which they can further refine by filters such as whether they accept Bitcoin or offer free consultations.
If a client finds a lawyer who interests them, they click a “Get Quote” or “Message” button on the lawyer’s profile page. Either button leads to a brief series of modal screens that ask for more information about the client and the matter, after which the information is sent to the attorney.
Right now, there seems to be a problem with these screens, in that they assume the potential client is filing bankruptcy. If I search for and find a divorce lawyer or personal injury lawyer and click the contact button, I get the same screen asking me if I am interested in filing bankruptcy for myself or my business.
NOTE: This issue has been fixed. Now, the contact form has a drop-down showing the areas in which the attorney practices and prompts the potential client to select the type of legal problem for which they seek assistance.
For attorneys who are also customers of the NextChapter bankruptcy platform — soon to also offer an immigration platform — any leads that come through this directory can be ported over to NextChapter.
The nascent directory is still light on lawyer listings, so searches often come up nil. But that is to be expected with any new directory, until it has time to gain traction.
In order to beef up its listings, Modern Attorney is offering lawyers the ability to sign up for free through the end of the year. For those who take advantage of this offer, their listings will remain free forever, Sickmeyer said. Starting Jan. 1, the cost of a listing will be $25 a month plus a $150 initiation fee.
Sickmeyer said that her next step for the directory will be to build awareness of it among consumers. That will be the hard part, she says, given the competition among lawyer directories for prominence on Google.
So do millennials need their own lawyer directory? In my opinion, any potential client of any age will benefit from a directory that offers greater transparency into lawyers’ practices, fees and technology. Modern Attorney is nicely designed, provides useful information at a glance, and makes it easy for a potential client to reach out to an attorney.
As for whether an attorney is a cat or dog person or bakes cookies, I doubt it really matters to potential clients. But there is nothing wrong with letting a little personality show through.
Given that you can currently sign up for this directory for free and then lock that in forever, seems like a lawyer looking for more clients would have nothing to lose.