Addison Cameron-Huff said for independent lawyers and lawyers just starting off, getting the word out about their services can be a tough obstacle to overcome. Not everyone has the resources to make Saul Goodman-style television ads.
There’s banner ads, there’s low-end, “junky” craig’s list and Kijiji ads, and there’s even radio ads, said the 26-year-old technology lawyer, where “there’s been a big push by personal injury lawyers to run radio ads together, operating as the Personal Injury Alliance.”
But largely for new lawyers, said Cameron-Huff, “there isn’t really anywhere good”.
So he coded a website that launched in August called Flatlaw.ca, a dedicated space where lawyers can offer their services for flat rates rather than the traditional billing by time method. He already has about a dozen lawyers listing services that range from purchasing of homes to refinancing, to incorporating a company, to business visa processing to shareholder agreements, and more.
“I made it for myself, really,” he said. “A place to advertise my own legal service and I thought if I’m going to be advertising myself I may as well have other people on there as well.”
It’s still a rudimentary site and since Cameron-Huff is practising as a lawyer, bringing in immediate revenue isn’t a huge concern. He said in the future if it really catches on with people he might invest more into the site, create better offerings and charge subscriptions. It doesn’t serve as an ecommerce platform yet (due to complicated payment rules that apply to lawyers), but allowing payment and bundling services isn’t out of the picture. For the near future it simply acts as an advertisement option for individual lawyers and if people are interested, they can get in touch with the lawyers.
When asked why advertising has traditionally been a challenge for lawyers (outside of radio, tv and print), Cameron-Huff told me that, again, the whole “regulations thing” makes it difficult. As well, fixed-fee billing has only really taken off in the past few years and it’s a growing area, so the site in part is facilitating the move away from hourly prices to flat fee’s.
“Specialized lawyers is another part of it,” said Cameron-Huff. “People used to be the town lawyer that did everything but because law is more complicated today, people specialize more (and its better for everyone because you can specialize in one thing and get the work done faster). They can make more money by becoming really good at something and doing it over and over again. The main problem people have is deal flow.”
Ideally, Flatlaw.ca will help with that. Especially for startups looking for a quick solution to legal documents, the site can be of interest.
When I asked Cameron-Huff why there’s a new interest in flat-fee billing for lawyers (and technology plays like his site), the former Research in Motion attorney speculated that 100 years ago, flat-fee billing was the norm. But several court decision in the US called it price fixing, and in came hourly billing. It’s easy for the lawyers, but its worrisome for the clients. Now though, “its become more competitive now, more specialized and people expect more from lawyers,” he said.
Cameron-Huff also runs a website called OntarioMonitor.ca, which is “like Google News but for everything the Ontario Government does”. It tracks every speech in the Ontario legislature, every committee, the status of bills, regulations, royal proclamations, Ministry press releases and the Environment Registry, charging about $250 per month.